Fast food chains using loophole to hire foreigners, says labour group

Fast-food chains and convenience stores are using loopholes in Canada's temporary foreign worker program to hire foreign workers at the expense of Alberta employees, says a provincial labour group.

Fast-food chains and convenience stores are using a loophole in Canada's temporary foreign worker program to keep labour costs down, says an Alberta labour group.

Labour spokesperson Gil McGowan says fast food chains are hiring unskilled foreign workers using loopholes in a process set up to fast-track highly-skilled workers. (CBC)

Documents reveal that more than half of the temporary foreign workers hired through a new fast-track process to bring in highly-skilled workers ended up working at fast-food restaurants and convenience stores, said Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan. 

"It stretches the bounds of crediblity that companies like A&W, McDonalds would be hiring high-skilled workers," McGowan said.

The document obtained through an access-to-information request shows restaurants, stores and gas stations across the country were granted more than 2,400 guest worker permits under the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion process between April 25 and Dec. 18, 2012.

"These applications have been rubber stamped in as little as 10 days and the vast majority aren't subjected to any kind of review," McGowan said.

More than half of all workers, 54 per cent, who were hired under the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion during the period ended up in Alberta.

Of those, almost 60 per cent were flagged as inappropriate under the process, McGowan said.

He said it's clear to him companies are abusing the system, giving jobs to foreign workers that Canadians should have as  the Harper government turns a blind eye.

"They're using the temporary foreign workers program to keep wages low," McGowan said.

The program allows employers to pay workers up to 15 per cent less than Canadians.

McGowan wants the Auditor General to open an investigation into the fast-track process.

A spokesperson told CBC News the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development is concerned with the recent issues involving the Temporary Foreign Worker program and said officials will look into any evidence that the program is being misused.

The AFL's accusations come on the heels of a CBC Investigation revealing the Royal Bank of Canada is hiring foreign workers while laying off dozens of its Canadian employees.

With files from CBC's James Hees