The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour says better offers — not temporary foreign workers — is the answer for Gander businesses looking for new hires.
After the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce said that businesses want increased access to the Temporary Foreign Workers program to fill their vacancies, the NLFL told CBC Radio's Central Morning that approach is flawed.
Jessica McCormick, a vice president with the group, says people are looking for secure jobs, with higher wages and health benefits - especially in uncertain economic times.
"If employers aren't offering decent wages... then I imagine that a lot of people have difficulty taking on those jobs," she said. "If it's a minimum wage job with only part-time hours, that's not necessarily the option you want to take."
With plenty of job openings, but seemingly no one to fill them, business owners in Gander are looking for ways to attract workers to the service industry, which typically has wages at or just above the minimum wage.
Last week, Gander chamber chair Debby Yannakidis said businesses in the area aren't seeing many applications for their positions, and said that the temporary foreign workers program could help.
For her part, McCormick suggests the provincial government needs to consider what a real job strategy would look like.
"We haven't heard much about how we're going to develop new jobs for people or make the jobs that are existing, better jobs," she said.
She says some type of immigration strategy will help — but says it should focus on quality employment as well.
"We're only going to bring [immigrants] here if there are decent jobs, and not precarious employment," she said.
She also called on the provincial government to increase the minimum wage.
"That's the only way we're going to address some of the really significant economic challenges that we're facing. Not through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program."