Service Canada impedes Arborg-Bifrost’s ability to hire

By Teresa Carey…

Many local businesses have been finding it hard to hire the immigrants who are waiting in the wings to fill vacancies, and hoping to make Arborg-Bifrost communities their home.

Koby Wiebe, co-ordinator for the Arborg and Riverton Immigrant Settlement Services, says that he can immediately think of 10 to 15 employers currently being impeded by Service Canada’s rules, with 15 to 20 prospective employees waiting in limbo.

“Every week someone contacts me about it,” Wiebe said.

Often the employers have already found people to hire, some of whom currently live in places like Bolivia, Paraguay, and the Philippines, and some who already live in the area.

“Some want to come. Some are already here. The employers would love to have them, but they don’t have the work permit. The LMO (Labour Market Opinion) is getting in the way of it,” he said.

The LMO is a number that Service Canada comes up with that shows that there is a need for the foreign worker to fill the job you offer and that there is no Canadian worker available to do the job. Businesses have to come up with a positive LMO in order to be able to hire an immigrant.

Prospective employers must show the efforts made to recruit and/or train willing and available Canadian citizens or permanent residents; that the wages offered are consistent with the prevailing wage rate paid to Canadians in the same occupation in the region; that the working conditions for the occupation meet the current provincial labour market standards; and any potential benefits that hiring a foreign worker might bring to the Canadian labour market, such as the creation of new jobs or the transfer of skills and knowledge.

Local employers have had 90 per cent of their applications rejected by Service Canada, which claims that there is not a shortage of these types of workers in Canada.

“They want (Arborg-Bifrost) businesses to advertise in Toronto and Vancouver,” said Wiebe.

“It’s hard, to impossible” to get an LMO,” he said, “The employer doesn’t get permission to hire a foreign worker because the LMO comes back negative.”

Federal rules, which dictate the wages a foreign worker must be paid, at first glance, sounds like a good thing. However, Service Canada has not been taking into account that different regions pay different rates, according to their own economic realities.

“The prevailing wage is lower in rural areas. Service Canada does not understand how the rural areas work. Even low-skilled people are hard to find in the rural areas. They (Service Canada) are city-oriented. They say foreign workers must be paid the (overall) “prevailing wage”, which is often higher than those currently being paid here,” said Wiebe.

“In Arborg, we need welders, but in this area, we don’t need a totally certified welder. Most employers are willing to train them. Those people who have the certification are asking for a really high wage, but most employers here don’t need such high skills.”

To help make a case to Service Canada, Wiebe is working on a community survey of wages in order to prove that the pay rates in the Arborg-Bifrost area are within the prevailing wage of the community. Wiebe plans to have the survey completed by the fall of 2011.

He has brought the issue forward to the Arborg and District Chamber of Commerce, at the May 12 meeting, and will continue to work with the Chamber on the issue.

Selkirk-Interlake MP, James Bezan, was invited to the May 12 Chamber of Commerce meeting, where he was apprised of the difficulties local businesses have been experiencing as a result of the federal rules.

“He said he would bring that to the federal side, and hoped to lobby from behind the scenes,” Wiebe said.

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About Teresa

Teresa Carey is a ceramic artist, writer, photographer, journalist, publisher and nature lover. She lives in Manitoba's Interlake on a small acreage close to the shores of Lake Winnipeg.

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