New Brunswick

Seasonal employers relieved about temporary foreign worker changes

Seasonal employers are relieved they will be able to hire additional temporary foreign workers this year after the federal government lifted caps on the industry.

Federal government is lifting a cap on the number of temporary foreign workers in seasonal industries

Jerry Amirault, the president of the Lobster Processors Association of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, said an exemption to a cap on temporary foreign workers for seasonal employers will help seafood processors get through the busiest time of the year. (CBC)

Seasonal employers are relieved they will be able to hire additional temporary foreign workers this year after the federal government lifted caps on the industry.

The seafood industry is one specific sector that stands to benefit from the federal government's decision to erase restrictions on the number of temporary foreign workers seasonal employers can hire in 2016

Jerry Amirault, the president of the Lobster Processors Association of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, said the exemption will help processors get through the busiest time of the year.

"There's about 4,500 temporary workers in all of Atlantic Canada and about  2,000 of them had been in the seafood sector, so for some plants, this will help them get through the gluts so the harvest can go on in an orderly fashion," Amirault said.

The former Conservative government had capped the number of temporary foreign workers that employers could hire at 20 per cent of a company's workforce and 10 per cent on July 1, 2016.

The Liberal government provided an exemption to the cap for all seasonal industries which employ workers for a maximum of 180 days.

Those employers still have to undergo a labour market assessment for each position to confirm the job cannot be filled locally, but for 2016 there's no limit to the number of foreign workers they can bring in under the program.

Companies must search for local workers

Amirault said employers try to find local workers through job banks, ads and job fairs but there's a limit to what they can do.

When they have exhausted those options, they turn to temporary foreign workers.

"It's not our job … if someone's unemployed and doesn't want to take the work, we can't force them," Amirault said.

"I mean, that's government and their program and whether they're going to allow a claim or not."

New Brunswick's unemployment rate hit 9.9 per cent in February, according to Statistics Canada.

Even with a high local unemployment rate, seasonal industries have found it difficult to find workers.

When the former Conservative government announced the changes to the temporary foreign worker program last year, seasonal industries warned their ability to process seafood would be hurt by these new rules.

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