The owner of 19 Subway shops in northwestern Alberta has put up posters linking the loss of temporary foreign workers to slower service in her restaurants.
The posters created by Shawna Miller show a diner holding a fork next to an empty plate, with the question: “Why is this order taking forever?”
“Our staff still have smiling faces on and they greet the customer, but there simply isn't enough of them to perform the job, so service slows down,” Miller said.
Of the 180 people who work at Miller’s Subway restaurants, 70 are foreign workers.
Miller says many will have to leave Canada soon, and new rules put in place by the federal government will make it difficult to replace them.
“We are making plans for the future, in the event that we are unable to fill those positions, and looking at reductions in hours and store closures,” she said.
Minister continues call for better wages
Earlier this year, the federal government clamped down on the use of the temporary foreign workers after news reports revealed how some companies were abusing the program.
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice says the changes are hurting the province’s businesses and plans to raise the issue when he meets with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
CBC News showed Miller’s poster to federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney while he was in Edmonton for an announcement on Thursday.
Kenney did not comment on the poster. Instead, he said the use of temporary foreign workers in Alberta restaurants have prevented wages from keeping pace with inflation.
He says employers need to try harder to recruit workers by raising wages.
“You can't run a business model based on bringing in people from abroad who are indentured at a fixed wage rate,” he said. “That is not how a normal economy functions.”
Miller claims she pays her workers well and offers them full benefits but she still can’t find enough local workers to fill the gap. The people just aren’t there.
“No amount of money that we pay is going to materialize an individual,” she said.