We sit before you today as proof that the TFW program is broken. I am Sandy Nelson, and with me today is Shaunna Jennison-Yung. We are two waitresses from Weyburn, Saskatchewan.
Further to our brief, which you have already received, the following points highlight our concerns.
First, an employer such as ours can simply restructure his business and discharge all staff and keep only the people he wants by saying, “We offered jobs and they didn't want them.” Clearly, in our case, jobs were not offered to us. We believe all staff did not receive the notice of discharge. If it were the case, was Service Canada notified? Were new LMO contracts applied for? Were ROEs issued? This, to us, is a blatant abuse of the federal guidelines. The same guidelines state that TFWs or LMOs should be laid off first in times of work shortage.
Second, I myself in January 2014 lost 20 hours a month to the then TFW, and was told she needed her 40 hours per week.
Third, there's the question regarding TFWs coming here to do specific jobs. Is it not against the rules to have someone hired as a waitress or server to then work in housekeeping while the restaurant is under construction, without a change to the contract? As well, a TFW cook is dishwashing part-time and has taken hours from a Canadian dishwasher to ensure that her 40 hours a week are filled. This particular Canadian is now getting, at most, nine hours a week.
On the hotel side of the business, is it not against the rules to have housekeepers going to the bosses' homes to do chores such as yardwork and cleaning? Also included in their duties is the cleaning of bosses' vehicles. This is paramount to slavery. As contract workers, they simply oblige.
Next, we would like to discuss the LMO itself. Shaunna saw first-hand a Canadian applicant who was applying for a prep cook job sit and wait to speak to the boss for an hour. The applicant seemed qualified and was eager for a job. After talking with the boss, the young man left. The boss, Harry, then tossed the application aside, explaining to Shaunna that the job had to be posted in order to get an LMO for a brother-in-law of a current employee from the Philippines. This was the norm, as people did apply for jobs in all categories at the hotel, including housekeeping.
There needs to be safeguards for Canadians such as us. The media was a last resort for us, as we first contacted labour standards, human rights, program integrity services, and the office of Jason Kenney. We did meet with Dustin Duncan, our local MLA, and although he would do what he could, his hands were tied.
There needs to be more information readily available to Canadians regarding the reverse discrimination they may be experiencing in their workplaces. There needs to be more than a telephone number to report abuses. Even a lawyer can't help in regard to this program, since it is a federal program and there are no laws and no legislation to address these issues.
We believe as well that what our boss did in the discharging of all employees was done at this particular time to indeed protect one TFW who had just recently obtained landed immigrant status. The other employee, a cook, who was discharged along with us has been here for approximately seven years and still has only landed immigrant status, which for him is good enough. He could become a citizen, but as he says, he has an open permit to work for five years, and the only right he hasn't got is the right to vote. We don't know how many keep just their landed immigrant status, but that should be an interesting statistic to know.
We believe the reasons more people don't speak up include not knowing what their rights are, no one to actually handle complaints, and having others turn it into a racist issue.
It has been quoted time and time again that the government will not tolerate employers who hire foreign workers when Canadian workers are available and willing to do the same jobs. Yet here we are. The province has started an investigation, and for that we are grateful. However, they can do nothing as it pertains to this program. We have yet to hear from any person from Jason Kenney's office, even though there is to be an urgent investigation.
There must be a tightening of these rules immediately. We sit before you today maintaining that this program is severely broken. We hear talk of stiff fines, suspensions for rule breakers, and severe consequences for abuse. Where is it? We dare anyone to read our brief and tell us that our former employers did not break the rules. As Canadians, we feel unwelcome in our own country. This is unfair not only to us but also to the vulnerable temporary foreign workers now in this country.
I would like to add that we did get an e-mail from Jason Kenney's office on May 13 regarding our e-mail of April 7. As noted in the letter, no information will be divulged due to privacy issues. None of our questions will be answered, and it is apparent that we will not be interviewed or be part of this investigation. We cannot understand why we as complainants would not be part of an official investigation process.