April 28, 2014 – In a statement issued Thursday, April 24, the Minister of Employment and Social Development announced an immediate moratorium on the food services sector’s access to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The move comes after weeks of scrutiny and media coverage, including allegations that some companies were displacing Canadian employees in order to make room for foreign workers brought in under the program.
The announcement means that no new Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) will be issued for the food services industry, and that all pending LMO applications are on hold. In addition, all previously approved LMOs for jobs that have yet to be filled will be suspended. No new work permits will be issued in connection with outstanding positive LMOs in the food services industry. LMOs are a procedural step in an approval process that requires an employer to demonstrate that a critical labour shortage exists, necessitating the hiring of foreign workers.
The moratorium includes all food services sector establishments, including caterers, mobile food vendors, bars and restaurants. In our opinion, hotel restaurants are not covered by the moratorium provided the food service is run by the hotel directly. However, any leased premise within a hotel providing food services and operated by a third party are covered by the moratorium. The moratorium also extends to include restaurant cleaning staff, security, supervisors and managers.
If you are an employer who hires Temporary Foreign Workers
Immediately assess your practices against the program requirements to ensure full compliance with the terms of any issued LMO. In addition to announcing a moratorium on access to the program for the food services sector, the Minister also noted that non-compliant employers may be publicly named on a government run blacklist. Further, employers found to have made misrepresentations about their efforts to hire Canadians during the LMO approval process face criminal fines and possible jail time.
Ongoing news coverage also highlights the very real public relations risks of program non-compliance, which can include unwanted media attention, consumer boycotts and possible litigation.
If you are a Temporary Foreign Worker
Temporary Foreign Workers currently in Canada should begin assessing their options for permanent residence. The Temporary Foreign Worker program has been the subject of much scrutiny and despite the recent announcement of a moratorium, there continue to be calls to terminate the program. While a full suspension of the program remains, in our opinion, a remote possibility, there have been and will likely continue to be, increased restrictions on the program including limitations on permit renewals or an expansion of the industries affected by the moratorium. Workers who are eligible for permanent residence should consider taking the necessary steps to transition their status in order to remain in Canada.
Green and Spiegel LLP will continue to monitor this situation closely and will provide updates as warranted. For further information, or to answer any of your questions, please contact Green and Spiegel LLP.