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Canadian restaurants hit with foreign temp moratorium

April 25 2014

Canadian Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced an immediate moratorium on the food services sector’s access to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Service Canada will not process any new or pending labour market opinion applications related to the food services sector, and any unfilled positions tied to a previously approved LMO will be suspended.

This moratorium will remain in effect until the completion of the on-going review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Kenney said.

Restaurants Canada, a national association of restaurants, said it was disappointed with the decision and is committed to working the government to correct any abuses.

“The majority of restaurant operators using the program operate in complete compliance and it is unfortunate that their businesses and employees will be hurt by the broad-stroke approach,” according to Restaurants Canada. “Albertans in particular will remember what it was like a few years go to find restaurants closed because of a shortage of workers.”

Kenney earlier this month directed officials to investigate allegations of abuse of the program; Labour Market Opinions were suspended, and employers in question were placed on a public blacklist.

“Despite these actions, there remain serious concerns regarding the use of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in the food services sector,” Kenney said in a statement.

The moratorium follows the release of a report by The C. D. Howe Institute, an independent not-for-profit research institute, which found easier access to foreign labor can generate undesirable incentives on the part of employers and prospective workers.

McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Limited this week temporarily halted all labour market opinions in its system after a franchise owner in Victoria, B.C., allegedly broke rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

CBC News Canada reports the CEO of McDonald's Canada refuted recent criticism of its use of temporary foreign workers in a conference call to franchisees that was given to the CBC. To read the article, which contains the conference call audio, click here.

McDonald's Canada responded to CBC's coverage, saying it was disappointed. Its statement is here.

Tim Hortons, the largest publicly-traded restaurant chain in Canada based on market capitalization, announced yesterday it is broadening its audit program to include mandatory independent audits for every franchisee who accesses the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. 

“We have invested millions of dollars recently to open new restaurants, creating thousands of direct additional jobs for Canadians as well as hundreds of spin-off jobs in construction, maintenance and other industries,” the statement said. “Complementing our Canadian staffing in markets with critical labour shortages with select use of Temporary Foreign Workers has enabled us to continue those investments that create Canadian jobs.”

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