Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada Face Challenges During Slow Lobster Season

Temporary foreign workers in Canada are speaking out against a system that prevents them from finding other jobs when their employer has no work available for them. This issue has been particularly prevalent during a slow lobster season, where lobster processing employees are struggling with low catch and a shortened season due to adverse weather.

While local employees in New Brunswick have access to employment insurance and alternative work opportunities during the slow season, temporary foreign workers brought in to work in fish plants have no option but to wait for work to resume. Francisco Javier Montaño de Dios, a worker at Lebreton Fisheries, expressed the frustration of his colleagues, who came to Canada with the expectation of working and sending money back to their families. However, out of the 17 weeks Montaño de Dios has been in New Brunswick, he has only had seven weeks of work.

The temporary foreign worker program in Canada restricts workers to their employer, preventing them from seeking employment elsewhere. This regulation has left many workers unable to support themselves and their families during periods of work scarcity. In response to the lack of work for several weeks, the foreign workers at Lebreton Fisheries sent a letter to management requesting payment for off weeks. The company offered to cover return flights home for those who wanted to leave early, as well as rent for the month of July and temporary loans. However, many workers decided to return to their home countries before their contract ended.

Niger Saravia, of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, stated that the current system puts all the power in the hands of the employer, making it difficult for workers to voice their concerns or have any job security. Workers are reliant on their employer for housing, immigration sponsorship, and future job opportunities. Saravia mentioned that some workers have resorted to finding informal work, such as cleaning or landscaping, in order to make ends meet during the slow season. He also highlighted the need for reforms that would provide more flexibility for temporary foreign workers and protect them from abuse and exploitation.

The challenges faced by temporary foreign workers during a slow lobster season have brought attention to the need for changes to the current system. Employers, workers, and advocacy groups are calling on the Canadian government to review the regulations surrounding temporary foreign workers and provide more support and flexibility during work scarcity periods.