TORONTO – Royal Bank’s top executive apologized Thursday to the workers who are being affected by the bank’s outsourcing arrangement with a foreign company, saying RBC should have been more sensitive and helpful to them.
The apology follows a backlash against the bank after some of its Canadian information technology workers complained they were being replaced by foreign workers working for a company contracted by RBC.
Chief executive Gord Nixon said in an open letter, to be published in Friday newspapers, that the bank is also reviewing its supplier arrangements and policies to balance its desire to be a successful business and a “leading corporate citizen.”
He repeated assurances that all of the affected workers – about 45 people – will be offered comparable job opportunities at the bank, which is Canada’s largest bank by assets.
“RBC has been in the news this week in a way no company ever wants to be,” Nixon said in a letter distributed Thursday afternoon.
“While we are compliant with the regulations, the debate has been about something else. The question for many people is not about doing only what the rules require – it’s about doing what employees, clients, shareholders and Canadians expect of RBC. And that’s something we take very much to heart.”
He issued four commitments in the letter, starting with the apology.
“All will be offered comparable job opportunities within the bank,” Nixon says.
He also committed to a review of the bank’s supplier agreements and to keep its call centres that support the bank’s domestic and U.S. business in Canada.
“Fourth, we are preparing a new initiative aimed at helping young people gain an important first work experience in our company, which we will announce in the weeks ahead,” Nixon said.
In earlier statements and an interview that Nixon gave to CBC, the bank had said it expected and believed that its outsourcing supplier had complied with all relevant Canadian rules.
IGate brought its own employees into Canada on temporary foreign worker visas so they could be trained at RBC for the services they’ll be providing to the bank.
The controversy sparked an investigation by the federal government.
The government has said that the temporary foreign workers program is only intended to allow foreign workers when no Canadians are available to fill the job.
“Employers cannot pay temporary foreign workers less than a Canadian would earn in the same job,” said Alyson Queen, a spokeswoman for Human Resources Minister Diane Finely.
“It is a requirement of the program that employers will only be able to pay temporary foreign workers 15 per cent less than the average prevailing wage if there are Canadians being paid 15 per cent less. Therefore, no Canadians will be undercut.”
In 2012, there were more than 213,000 foreign workers in Canada, compared with over 160,000 immigrants who arrived under the federal skilled worker program.
The rapid growth of the temporary foreign worker program has raised concerns that Canadian companies are filling job vacancies with cheaper workers from overseas rather than actively finding Canadians to fill the jobs.