The head of the Royal Bank of Canada has denied that it is replacing Canadian workers with temporary foreign workers, saying that the bank is providing jobs for anyone impacted by the move, which only involves one temporary foreign worker.
"Absolutely not," said Gord Nixon, the bank's CEO, in an interview with CBC's Amanda Lang on The Lang & O'Leary Exchange. "Firstly, RBC has not and does not hire any temporary foreign workers."
Nixon made the comments following a CBC News report that dozens of employees who facilitate various transactions for RBC Investor Services in Toronto will be losing their jobs, replaced by foreign workers.
The foreign workers are employed by a multinational outsourcing firm from India – iGATE Corp. – which has a contract with the bank to provide IT services.
But Nixon said this issue "revolves around a relatively small contract around RBC Investor Services. He said as part of the acquisition of RBC Investor Services, "we've got a program to improve the productivity, efficiency of the business. This involves a relatively small contract that has been won by one of our suppliers, which is iGATE, and that contract, which is an IT services contract, is being transitioned to iGATE."
"Our expectation is that all of our contractors comply with the rules and regulations of the country. And to our understanding, that is the case with this particular situation and it’s also [the] understanding that there may be one person who is actually here under a temporary foreign work visa of the people from iGATE involved. The rest are just people here for the transition process."
But Nixon said that he has asked for all the contracts with suppliers to be reviewed in terms of Canadian employment.
In a telephone interview with Evan Solomon of CBC's Power & Politics, Nixon added that of the 21 employees used by iGATE, six are local, 13 are from India but are only here to manage the transition and are not temporary foreign workers. Only one worker, he said, is a temporary foreign worker.
The story has sparked outrage from thousands of Canadians, angry that the bank would replace Canadian workers with temporary foreign workers, with some threatening to close their accounts with the bank.
It is against federal rules for any company to bring foreign workers into Canada temporarily if it will put citizens out of work.
However, RBC employee Dave Moreau, one of the employees affected by the move and whose complaints sparked the story, acknowledged in an interview on Power & Politics that it may only be one temporary worker involved.
"[Nixon] may be absolutely right. It may be that iGATE has told him it's only one. I don't know for sure," he told Solomon.
Moreau added that RBC has said it is doing its best to redeploy the affected employees within the bank.
But Opposition NDP Leader Tom Mulcair slammed RBC on Monday, along with the Conservatives, suggesting that government policies encourage this type of corporate behaviour.
"To allow temporary foreign workers, through this type of strategem, to be brought in to deprive Canadians of their livelihood is grotesque," he said.
"This is the worst type of corporate behaviour. But the government behaviour that is countenancing that type of corporate behaviour is even worse. The Conservatives should be ashamed of themselves."
Ottawa said it is looking into the case and if the company in any way abused or misused the federal program that allows companies to bring in temporary foreign workers, the government will take action.
"HRSDC officials are currently reviewing the labour market opinions submitted by iGate in great detail, based on apparent discrepancies between RBC's public statement and information which has previously been provided to the government," said Alyson Queen, a spokeswoman for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley.
Meanwhile, other RBC employees told CBC News they were terminated and replaced by foreign workers.
"I don't care what RBC says, I know what they did to me and I know what they did to many other workers, and what they doing is totally unethical and unacceptable," said Gail Tedford, who lost her job last year.
Joanna Gnacinska said her RBC job also went to a foreign worker.
"That's why they came here to train on the jobs we were doing. They had no skills whatsoever."
Some former employees of other banks said they too lost their jobs to temporary foreign workers. Juan Terrazas said he worked for IT for TD Canada Trust but that he and dozens of others were let go last year after temporary workers showed up.
"I had to train one of the guys to do the job I was leaving," he said.