Old McDonald’s had some foreign workers

Brian
Brian Jones
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MHA Cathy Bennett gave an indication this week of the kind of gall and arrogance the Newfoundland (and Labrador) electorate can expect from a Liberal government after it ascends to office.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball already sounds as if he thinks he is the premier-designate rather than Frank Coleman, but it was Bennett’s performance in the House of Assembly that proved the Liberals are ready to lord it over the peasantry as the next untouchable masters of all the Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians).

Despite the national controversy the past few weeks regarding the federal government’s temporary foreign workers program — not to be confused with indentured servitude of the 18th century — Bennett boasted about hiring temporary foreign workers at her McDonald’s franchises.

As quoted in a Telegram story, she told the House, “I am proud that I am able to bring in temporary foreign workers in management roles that could not be filled, to train my staff so they could step into those higher-paying positions.”

Bennett may be proud, and perhaps some of the people who elected her in the recent Virginia Waters byelection are proud of her for being proud, but she apparently hasn’t been paying attention to the supersized controversy about the temporary foreign workers program.

Bennett’s own parent company, McDonald’s, is embroiled in the debate.

According to a recent Canadian Press story, “Fast-food giant McDonald’s has announced it is freezing its participation in the program pending a third-party audit after it found itself in hot water for hiring temporary foreign workers in B.C.”

Residents of B.C. must see something objectionable about bringing in foreigners to flip burgers instead of hiring Canadians, even if a majority of voters in Virginia Waters see nothing wrong with it.

The basis for the program — that it fills jobs that Canadians don’t want — has always been preposterous, and is finally being debunked, disproven and downsized.

A recent report on the temporary foreign workers program by the C.D. Howe Institute stated “there was little empirical evidence of shortages in many occupations,” and that the program “accelerated the rise in unemployment rates in Alberta and British Columbia.”

Trust economists to take a decade to figure out that if companies hire foreigners to do jobs that Canadians could do, the unemployment rate will go up.

If that was the result in Alberta and B.C., which have relatively strong economies, the same must be true for weaker economies such as Newfoundland’s (setting aside, for the moment, the exaggerated hype about oil, GDP growth, boom times and such).

This province still has the highest unemployment rate in the country, and yet fast-food franchisers expect the public to believe they can’t find workers. That’s harder to swallow than some of their menu items.

 

Side issue

Of course, employers say they want staff to be reliable, stable and long-term. Again, the implication is that such a goal cannot be met merely by hanging a “Help wanted” sign in the window.

But as many people have said, maybe the problem isn’t so much with the applicants, or lack thereof, as with the wages and working conditions — or lack thereof — on offer.

The grease merchants should look inward, rather than outward to the Philippines or India.

Bennett is seemingly unbothered. She spoke on the issue in the House of Assembly because she introduced a private member’s resolution calling on the government to increase regulation over the temporary foreign workers program.

The Tories agreed. Henceforth, companies in Newfoundland will need a licence in order to bring in foreign workers rather than hire Newfoundlanders (or Labradorians or Canadians).

It seems overdone, when the same ends could likely be met with a simple sign: “Help wanted. Good pay. Decent benefits.”

 

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at  bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Canadian Press, C.D. Howe Institute, The Telegram

Geographic location: B.C., Alberta, Newfoundland British Columbia Philippines

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Recent comments

  • Pierre Neary
    May 16, 2014 - 21:30

    Nothing but a total hatchet job by Jones.

  • Nels
    May 16, 2014 - 19:50

    No wonder we need foreign workers, the locals don't want to work Friday & Saturday nights. The students claim studies and yet they can be found on George Street either or both nights. Not ALL but a majority just don't want to work the odd hours that part-timers usually get. Foreign workers are usually very grateful for the opportunity to work even for minimum wage. If you doubt this just ask the management of any of the big box stores. Recently, one manager had 6 part-time cashier not show up for work on one shift alone. I say hire the people who want to work, regardless of where they are from, as long as they are here legally. At least you know they will be show up for work.

  • Nels
    May 16, 2014 - 19:49

    No wonder we need foreign workers, the locals don't want to work Friday & Saturday nights. The students claim studies and yet they can be found on George Street either or both nights. Not ALL but a majority just don't want to work the odd hours that part-timers usually get. Foreign workers are usually very grateful for the opportunity to work even for minimum wage. If you doubt this just ask the management of any of the big box stores. Recently, one manager had 6 part-time cashier not show up for work on one shift alone. I say hire the people who want to work, regardless of where they are from, as long as they are here legally. At least you know they will be show up for work.

  • Blighter
    May 16, 2014 - 11:13

    I voted NDP. I knew Bennett would be as described by Jones-by the way by far the best journalist in this neck of the woods. Maybe if these huge corporations which sit on huge mounds of billions of dollars paid decent wages/perks or trained local Canadians they would not need to bring in foreigners. Maybe foreign governments should look after their nationals while Canadian politicians care for Canadians?Looks like Bennet will go to bat for the TFW. Canadians?Not so much! I'll have fries with that,por favor!

  • Wayne Gray
    May 16, 2014 - 09:43

    The public has no idea of the reality of the situation with foreign workers in particular in the hospitality industry. Even though the unemployment rate may be high, most of these people are unwilling to work in this industry because of the wages. Why would an employer pay thousands of dollars to import workers if they could hire locally. Before everyone gets on their high horse and say that the reason people wont take these jobs is because of low wages, are the very same people who complain about the cost of foods. How many of you are willing to pay $10 for a Big Mac? The reality of the situation is the public is unwilling to spend more for products so that wages can increase. My teenage son will not apply at McDonalds, ect because it is not cool enough for him. He is far from alone. It is so easy for everyone to be so critical with very little knowledge of the facts. These foreign workers appreciate the job, show up and do a good job. Society can't have it both ways; if you want lower prices than you have lower wages. Simple as that.

    • Joe
      May 16, 2014 - 13:33

      Economist? If there were no cheap labour to call on these lazy operators would get on with running their shops and earning less profit in order for they themselves to have a job.

    • rod
      May 16, 2014 - 18:13

      @wayne the myth of the 10$ big mac has been disproven too. If wal-mart decided to pay its employees 15$/hr prices would go up .25$ do yourself a favour, try a quick google search before you step off your 'high horse' Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt

  • guy incognito
    May 16, 2014 - 08:29

    There are 2 problems. People like McBennett are allowed to bring in foreign workers to work in their troughs......taking jobs away from locals.... The government makes it too easy for people to get on welfare. People are somehow able to chose to go on welfare rather than work a job that they don't want to so. Either way the working tax payer loses.......

  • Was Faithful Customer
    May 16, 2014 - 07:14

    I think Cathy Bennett should pay a little more attention to what is actually happening in her stores. before she worries about Dwight Ball. I used to be a faithful customer to one of her stores. But after many mix ups over orders and Many Many unreturned phone calls from the manager and the head office I have stopped going. I worked in retail for over 15 years in management, and I can tell you now that customer service has gone to the dogs. no one cares about the customer anymore just the almighty dollar.

  • Virginia Waters
    May 16, 2014 - 05:10

    Your column is marred by an unnecessary, unfair, irrational attack on Dwight Ball. For months the media and government hacks posting anonymously on these forums have been asking for Ball's platform ahead of next year's election. So now that he has laid out some key elements of that platform, you ridicule him for thinking he is the premier-designate. Other than to say that he is 100% in support of everything his predecessors and his soon-to-be government has done these past years, the 'real' premier-designate has yet to offer any platform whatsoever. Missing-in-action from the get-go, Coleman only surfaced long enough to say his family was being persecuted and that everything that went down with the HVP contracts was hunky-dory. As for the rest of your column, I am in full agreement not only that Cathy Bennett has shown 'gall and arrogance' on the temporary worker issue but that in time she will show herself to be a liability for the Liberals. I concur with those who have categorized Ms. Bennett as something of an opportunist - political and otherwise. Being part of a process that has brought 3,000 temporary foreign workers into a province with the highest rate of unemployment in Canada is nothing of which to be proud - especially when her share of that number was imported to help flip burgers. Becoming an investor in a mainland company that was doing big business with NALCOR while her seat on NALCOR's board was still warm is nothing of which to be proud. On just about every criteria imaginable this lady is a bad fit for the Liberals. She was a staunch patron of the Tories and, other than for the fact that party is on its heels, that's where she'd be right now. Ball might have beaten her for the leadership but he'd do well to look over his shoulder from time to time.

    • Lol
      May 16, 2014 - 10:23

      Liberal staffer?

    • Saucy Face
      May 16, 2014 - 14:54

      If the Liberal Party is honest, they would have the guts to sign Virginia Waters as Liberal Party staffer instead and earn some respect for doing so. What a crock!