April 24, 2014 8:12 pm

Advocates defend temporary foreign workers

REGINA – In the wake of alleged abuses of the temporary foreign worker program, the initiative is garnering a lot of negative attention, nationwide.

The federal NDP is calling for a moratorium of the use of the program, and the Liberals are asking for a full audit.

However, Saskatchewan employers and business advocates are speaking up in defence of the program.

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“There is no other sustainable source of labour available here in Canada,” said Denis Prud’homme, CEO of Prudhomme International.

He owned a Regina-based trucking company for 17 years and in 2004, he began recruiting overseas due to a lack of available drivers.

“We had 20 trucks sitting against the fence at one point. We would have had to downsize our business, if we wouldn’t have done that we would have done bankrupt,” said Prud’homme. “The problem was, we were hiring people without the necessary experience and we were having a rash of traffic accidents and injuries.”

Over a three-year span he hired about 50 temporary foreign workers.

Prud’homme now owns a recruitment company where he helps other businesses hire foreign workers and believes the program still has value when used as intended: “They (TFWs) bring an incredible work ethic. Very highly qualified. Very skilled people.”

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says it has heard from numerous employees who are concerned about recent alleged abuses casting all users of the temporary foreign worker program in a negative light.

“There isn’t rampant abuse across the country. Let’s be clear,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB vice-president of prairie and agri-business. “The number one issue for Saskatchewan business owners is the shortage of qualified labour.”

About 15,000 people are in Saskatchewan under the program with a total of 300,000 nationwide. Most new workers came to the province in last year as truck drivers, followed by food counter attendants, and trades, including steam fitters, carpenters, electricians and farm workers.

“Almost every business in this province has either directly or indirectly taken advantage of the program,” said Steve McLellan, CEO of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses in this province want to hire Saskatchewan people. It’s easier. It’s quicker. But the reality is there’s not enough people around for all enough jobs.”

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