Registry a first step to better protect temporary foreign workers

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Harry Bains Minister of Labour

Victoria: Recently, I introduced new legislation that will better protect thousands of people coming to work in B.C. under the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Many sectors in our province depend on these workers to help fill labour or skills shortages, such as the agriculture, forestry and hospitality sectors. Our workforce, economy and province are stronger, and more diverse, because of these people.

Temporary foreign workers coming here from around the world want to feel safe – to feel confident their rights are protected, certain that measures are in place to prevent exploitation and know that abusive recruiters and employers will be held accountable. For too long, the most vulnerable workers in British Columbia have not gotten the protection they need.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act will allow for better protection of these workers. Under the legislation, recruiters of foreign workers must be licensed and employers intending to hire foreign workers must be registered with the Province. Unlicensed recruiters and unregistered employers will be expressly prohibited from engaging in the process of recruiting or hiring foreign workers. Any recruiters or employers who work outside the law will face significant penalties, including possible jail time.

The legislation also sets out the framework for the creation of foreign worker recruiter and employer registries. The information in the registries will be used to proactively audit recruiters and employers of foreign workers and hold these recruiters and employers accountable for any violations of worker rights. In addition, the legislation permits us to recover and return to workers fees charged by recruiters to get jobs, including where the fees are charged in other jurisdictions for work in B.C.

Too often, foreign worker advocacy groups report that the people they serve experience some form of exploitation or abuse. This mistreatment includes recruiters or employers taking possession of passports and charging illegal fees, not paying wages and bullying or threatening behaviour. This is unacceptable and needs to stop.

With the legislation introduced, government is taking bold steps to better protect these vulnerable workers and, at the same time, make B.C. a competitive jurisdiction for temporary foreign worker recruitment. We know the majority of B.C. employers follow the rules and treat their employees with respect – so this will also level the playing field by eliminating unfair advantages some employers may be gaining at the expense of foreign workers. We know that many B.C. businesses rely on temporary foreign workers and we will ensure the registration is a cost-free and simple process.

We are building a strong, sustainable economy that works for everyone. I am proud of what we are accomplishing and this is only the beginning. We’re going to keep working to fix problems, get results for people and build a better future for everyone living in B.C.