Canadian Meat Council: Give Foreign Workers Path to Citizenship

The association that represents the Canadian meat-processing industry is finding that the political realities the industry is facing are making it difficult to fill jobs in the sector. However, the Canadian Meat Council has a solution to the impasse.

Canada has plenty of jobs, but they’re ones that Canadians don’t want.

And that’s posing a problem for the Canadian Meat Council (CMC), which finds itself between a rock and a hard place. The industry’s livestock-processing jobs are unpopular with Canadians, but the current political climate is making the previous solution to the problem—a reliance on temporary foreign workers—untenable over the long run.

This is particularly challenging for the industry because of a recent push to boost Canadian agriculture worldwide.

“This is a permanent issue that needs to be addressed with a more permanent solution,” Steven West, director of the Temporary Foreign Workers program, said at CMC’s annual meeting in May, according to iPolitics. “We are watching this very closely.”

With new limits on the number of low-skilled foreign workers who can be brought in to the country going into effect July 1—Canada’s government has mandated that these workers can make up just 20 percent of an employer’s workforce, a cap that will be cut in half one year later—the association is searching for ways to solve the conundrum.

CMC’s suggested solution at this point? It wants the Canadian government to make it easier to hire foreign workers by creating a program through which these individuals could eventually become Canadian citizens—effectively, a temporary-to-permanent solution.

The council’s spokesman, Ron Davidson, says this is a preferable solution for the industry, because it has the potential of creating long-term employees, rather than temporary workers.

“We don’t want temporary foreign workers,” Davidson told The Canadian Press. “We want permanent workers. And if there aren’t Canadians who are willing to do the job, then we wish to be able to bring in people who want to immigrate to Canada and be Canadian citizens.”

The political environment may make the issue a challenge. Even though Canadian officials have known about the worker shortage for roughly a year, there’s been no action on the issue thus far. Council representatives hope to meet with legislators later this year. But it may prove easier to suggest the solution than to sell it.

As of now, the meat-processing industry is stuck with approximately 1,000 job openings—and that number may climb as the new restrictions take effect.

“We now have some new markets in Asia, but if we can’t get enough people cutting the meat, we won’t be able to capture those opportunities. It makes no sense,” the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council’s Mark Chambers added.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!