Last week the CBC reported that the employer of personnel at the Donkin Mine in Nova Scotia, Kameron Coal, has been slapped with Service Canada’s largest ever monetary penalties for abusing the foreign worker system. In a slight plot twist, the penalties, which include a fine of $54,000 and a one year ban on accessing the foreign worker program (so cannot bring in foreign workers on work permits), were levied for overpaying workers, rather than underpaying or otherwise mistreating workers. Foreign employees in some cases were being paid 120% of what was advertised in Canada before the Labour Market Impact Assessments were approved and foreign workers were permitted to take the positions. The case highlights the importance of following Labour Market Impact Assessment approvals to the letter.
Before a Labour Market Impact Assessment is sought, an employer must advertise the nature of the position, including all its benefits, to Canadians. If no qualified Canadians are willing to take the job, then an employer can seek foreign workers to fill the role – but only on exactly the same terms as were offered to Canadians in the advertising. The reason for this is that if foreign workers are paid more than was advertised to Canadians – the labour market has not been properly tested. Canadians might have come forward if the higher wage had been advertised. The system protects foreign workers from unscrupulous Canadian employers who try to underpay or otherwise take advantage of them, but it also protects the Canadian labour market and is there to ensure that Canadians are offered positions before temporary foreign workers are brought in to fill roles.