TORONTO, Ont. – Announced recently, changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) have the trucking industry up in arms.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance spoke out against the proposed changes claiming truck driving is a skilled trade that shouldn’t be equated to burger flipping.
“In an industry as fragmented and diverse as trucking, it’s not surprising there are varying opinions on the TFWP,” said CTA president David Bradley. “Obviously, those companies that utilize the program in order to fill truck driver vacancies will be impacted, whereas those who do not are less concerned.”
According to federal employment minister, Jason Kenney, the changes are to reduce the number of foreign workers in Canada to put a stop to abuses.
Bradley contents that whether a company uses the program or not, there is a very clear industry-wide consensus that truck driving should be labeled a skilled occupation. The fact that it isn’t considered so, is a key hurdle to addressing the issue of driver shortage, said the CTA.
“Even prior to the announced changes the program was considered by most to be too cumbersome and restrictive for anything other than a temporary, stop-gap measure to fill unseated trucks when a company is unable to fill those positions with qualified Canadians,” said Bradley who believes trucking companies who use the program don’t do so to expand their businesses.
“The TFWP is what it is,” he said. “It’s not an ideal program, nor is it a solution to the shortage of qualified truck drivers. But it’s all that is available to fill some seats on a temporary basisfor those who choose to use it.”
The CTA wants to work with the federal and provincial governments to fill the need for qualified Canadian drivers or immigrant drivers who are on the path to becoming Canadian citizens.
“On the one hand, the government wants the TFWP to be a last resort or perhaps disappear altogether,” said Bradley. “On the other, because truck drivers are lumped in with unskilled, low wage jobs like burger flippers, younger or displaced Canadians are unable to access programs like the Canada Jobs Grant, which would help them with the costs of the training they need before obtaining a commercial licence and becoming employable.”
“This is a real disincentive for people who might otherwise consider a truck driving career,” he added.
The issue of one of the TFWP changes that is of most concern to the CTA is the move from categorizing occupations that are skilled or non-skilled by looking at what the wage in comparison to the median wage in a province.
“It’s not a homogeneous occupation,” said Bradley. “The wages and the demands of the job for local pick-up and delivery drivers, for example, cannot be compared to those of long distance over-the-highway drivers, where wages tend to be higher and the shortage is felt most acutely.”
Bradley added that the CTA and the rest of the transportation industry does not presume or expect that any level government will solve the driver shortage issue.
“However, governments do have an important role to play – they determine which occupations are eligible for shared training funds; which qualify for immigration; and they set licensing standards and oversee the training institutions,” he said.
“We must continue to work together. Trucks move 90% of all consumer products and foodstuffs in the country so it’s essential the industry has a sufficient supply of qualified drivers.”