Business & Policy
FNA launches temporary foreign worker program
By Press release
October 21, 2013, Saskatoon, Sask – Farmers of North America (FNA) recently announced it has partnered with ILC Canada to provide FNA members with a full service solution to access Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) under federal programs to fill gaps in the farm labour market.
Shortages in domestic farm labour are widely documented in Canada and have been the subject of numerous news stories, particularly in the farm press.
FNA conducted its own consultations with its members including a direct “Expression of Interest” exercise where members detailed their needs. The response was rapid and clear: a program is needed that reduces the burden on individual farms to meet the regulatory and recruitment requirements.
Acknowledging that some economic sectors have been the subject of controversy over their use or misuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker program, FNA vice president Bill Martin said: “FNA will not allow farmers to be penalized for the bad behaviour of others.”
FNA found that while the need for access to temporary workers is well accepted, there is concern that public reaction could be coloured by the recent controversies, and that those controversies have made it even more challenging for individual farm operations to consider implementing a TFW plan.
By launching a program through FNA, the policy, communications and technical resources will be available to relieve farmers of having to deal with such issues.
“If you look in the agriculture space, there is really no one else who could do this. Retailers can't afford the divided focus and while farm organizations have devoted resources to address the policy issues, they generally don’t want to become commercial services,” Martin said. “And, frankly, a lot of people are uneasy about being directly involved in something that has a controversial past. Which means if the farm business alliance doesn’t do it, it just won’t get done.”
“There may be some who, for ideological purposes, oppose any foreign workers being involved on Canadian farms,” Martin said, “but the fact remains that there is a labour shortage in almost every sector of agriculture and this program provides real benefits to the foreign workers themselves and the Canadian economy.”
Martin noted that even with access to the federal program, Canadian farmers face a significant competitive disadvantage when it comes to farm labour. It is widely reported that illegal foreign workers constitute a major proportion of U.S. farm labour and guest worker programs in Europe provide significantly lower wages.
“While FNA does not want to see similar situations becoming part of Canadian agriculture, we should recognize the economic reality represented by the widespread use by Canada’s agriculture competitors of cheap and under-regulated foreign workers,” said Martin.
In contrast, the Canadian program sets comparatively high minimum wages and depending on specific circumstances, imposes other costs and obligations that may include paying for airfare and accommodation.
“To be clear,” Martin emphasized, “this is not an inexpensive option for farmers. Anyone who might claim Canadian farmers want to use the program to get cheap labour are either misinformed or flatly malicious. While it may not be inexpensive on the face of it, it is clearly a necessity given the huge cost of lost production that some farmers face as a result of an inadequate labour supply.”
The program will be delivered by ILC Canada, a noted private recruitment agency with long experience in working with the federal Temporary Foreign Worker program, including a direct relationship with a fully certified immigration consulting service. FNA will provide member services, including monitoring quality of service, and such media relations as may be required.
Details of the program may be found at www.fna.ca/TFW