Are Temporary Foreign Truck Drivers Being Abused? Are Canadian Carriers Abusing the TFWP?

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More than one wheel seems to be coming off the Harper government after a series of failures and scandals: the nepotism and cronyism the prime minister has demonstrated by his unfortunate appointments to the senate; the failure to get Marc Nadon appointed to the Supreme Court, after a string of judgements by the same body that have gone against the PMO (prompting attorney-general Peter McKay to attack the supreme justice on very unwise and thin grounds). But the biggest scandal by far is the temporary foreign worker program which appears to have become an unwieldy juggernaut that has spiraled out of control under the direction of Alberta mafia.

I’ve been a supporter of the temporary foreign worker program when it comes to the trucking industry as a way to alleviate the driver shortage. Like farm work, Canadians just don’t want to go trucking, and this seemed like a solution. During the last driver-shortage crunch, Canadian carriers went actively recruiting truck drivers overseas. Some of these workers have become Canadian citizens by now, bought houses and trucks, and have become part of the national fabric.

Of course there were horror stories even then. The drivers were, in-effect, hostages to the sponsoring carrier for a year, required to do the jobs nobody else wanted, like running as a team driver for lengthy stints on the road, or end up getting shipped back home on the next flight. I heard one story of a Brit trucker who got fed up with the working conditions and abandoned the company truck at the Minneapolis airport and flew back to the UK on his own volition.

So we’ve all heard about the unscrupulous McDonald’s franchises alleged to have abused the program and their foreign workers. And after that story broke, other employees came forward with claims that the sponsors had cut hours to Canadian workers in favour of the imports. And it’s no longer unskilled workers that are being recruited. Do you recall the story of the mine in BC that wanted to hire 200 Chinese miners in an effort to bypass the provincial labour market? And now it seems that foreign crews and pilots have been hired by CanJet. And here’s something else, on Wednesday May 7, the Toronto Star cited the statistic that the federal government in 2012 “granted positive labour market opinions for 375 temporary workers in Cape Breton, a region of Nova Scotia that had a 17.5% unemployment rate…” Immigration minister Jason Kenney and his party cohorts are in denial that foreign workers have impacted the labour market, but the question remains, has the dependence on this program contributed to overall joblessness in Canada?

Anyone working in the trucking sector has heard the opinion, shared by many domestic drivers, that foreigners have driven drivers’ wages down, but I’ve tended to discount this assertion because often thinly disguised racist sentiments at the crux of this argument. But the stink surrounding this program may have put the damper on future imports. A link to the government program on the website for the Trucking HR Canada (the descendent of the CTHRC) comes up with a blank page (“Page Not Found”) And now the CBC has reported that one Canadian trucking company, Easson’s Transport Ltd., of Berwick, N.S., has been suspended from the program as of May 1. According the the website for Employment and Social Development Canada, Easson’s of Berwick, N.S (the company has two other terminals, not included in the sanction), “There are reasonable grounds to suspect that the employer or group of employers provided false, misleading or inaccurate information in the context of the request for that opinion.”

So the problematic nature of Service Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program has visited Canadian carriers. Is this just the tip of the iceberg, or will there me more revelations? Moreover, I’d like to know if foreign workers are being mistreated by Canadian carriers, or if the carriers themselves are abusing this program. Any thoughts out there?

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Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.

With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude.

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  • Once again there is NO DRIVER SHORTAGE…

    Store shelves aren’t sitting empty now are they….

    This is just another example of carriers refusing to raise pay rates something which they’ve been neglecting to do for decades and another shining example of the lengths these carriers will go to avoid paying the piper…

    From 2005….

    Various programs allow recruitment of foreign drivers…drivers/1000196092/
    May 1, 2005 – TORONTO, Ont. – With thousands of driving jobs going begging in Canada, it’s no surprise that some carriers are looking overseas to fill the …

    There’s Canadians out of work, there’s Canadian drivers who have AZ licences being told they’re not qualified because they don’t have the 2 years experience some require but then those same carriers will and are importing TFW with zero experience on Canadian highways and climate to drive their trucks.

    When the pay rates are still stuck in the 1980’s ($15/hr is all to common at several places)…. is it because the carriers are truly stuck for drivers or is it that they don’t want to pay what should be a much higher prevailing wage to account for inflation/costs of living and are importing TFW over CANADIANS to keep wages down.

    I know where I stand on this…

    What was being paid in the 80’s..


    Do the math….

    Driver shortage? LOL… Hell NO….

    Just an abundance of cheap carriers not wanting to pay a wage reflecting today’s costs of living.

    • I agree Mark, most carriers are not paying enough. They might be one of the “50 best managed companies” but not from a driver remuneration perspective. Did you notice the recruiting room at Truck World? I doubt any of those carriers were paying $20 (to start) or the equivalent. Correct me if I’m wrong you best managed carriers.

    • The CTA members are not willing to pay to train people living Canada to drive truck. The insurance industry needs to insure new drivers for very small trucking companies. Any trucking company with 10 or more employees need to be able to go on E-log and be paid at least $22.00 per hour plus over time after 50 hours per week. The CTA needs to set up line to report any CTA member not paying those rates . They should limited to people per year to come in until this done.

  • The “driver shortage” is a myth put out by the big fleets who need to import cheap, off shore scabs because self respecting Canadian truck drivers refuse to work for their low wages and poor benefits. You would think the fleets would be happy if there was a real driver shortage…then they could increase rates AND driver pay. Guess then”driver shortage ” is still a myth!

  • As long as we have 3-4 carriers that control the market, the foreign truck drivers will be abused. Instead of being less greedy and be happy with the tremendous profits, they just want more and more. Unbelievable !!
    Oh one more thing : It is all about the Protection that the government is giving to this companies, instead of giving incentives to the Drivers (For example – Paying less taxes).
    I wonder sometimes where is the greediness is going to take us
    We need to stop using cheap labor to improve our balance sheet. Let improve our balanced society reducing the gap between rich and poor.
    And I am not socialist at all

  • I have been involved in trucking for 26 years I have been making a reasonable living at it , I work for a union company and thank to them for the rates, I have browsed around at jobs and my main must have is a good wage to support my family and not have to work 80 hrs a week or sit a docks on my own time etc. Why is it that employers think it is alright that drivers give free time to work. Shippers and customers should be charged for waiting times.

  • I have to wonder why such a renowned writer would write this piece. You are way off. There are many thousands of drivers graduating every year that cannot find work. We should not have to import foreign workers for this job. Your article should have asked why these Canadian drivers are not driving. Could it be the low ages due to foreign workers filling seats for next to nothing. Of course your story is published in Truck News who are just spokesmen for the large carriers. Sorry but you wrote an article without doing independent investigation of the FACTS.

    • Bruce, thanks for your comments. I wasn’t clear enough, in the above blog post I mentioned that “I’ve been” as supporter of the program but have my doubts now and thought I inferred that the PWTC may have affected drivers’ wages and contributed to overall joblessness.

      ButI believer the program has worked well in the past we now have many good citizens as a result who were fast tracked through immigration and given a chance to become Canadians. Most of those poor buggers working in the fast food industry and doing farmwork have little chance of becoming landed or citizens. But this was a good program for truck drivers. The majority of which are hard working, good people of all races and ethnic groups who we’d be happy to have as neighbours.

      As for drivers’ wages, carriers should be paying the imports the same starting wage as any other new hire. If they’re not, that’s discriminatory and exploitive. What are they paying? Those guys at Truck World in the recruiting booths were jumping over the stalls to sign up potential drivers. You’d think the wage scale would be sliding up with all those smarmy recruiters on the payroll.

      And just a note about the nature of blog journalism. Truck News and most publishers don’t pay bloggers, although some discussion and research sometimes does lead to paid work. The above was my opinion and that’s what blogs are, opinion pieces that aren’t necessarily well-researched. I had no input from any carrier but I did ask a few people and some drivers what they thought of the program. Other than that I think I cited a
      Toronto Star story and fished around on the web a bit. And yes, I am much more careful when I’m hired to write a story. I’m sure each of my blogs contain an error or two.

    • Hi Bruce
      Remember this companies has a very strong Lobby that influence the politicians (You know – Free Lunches, traveling ect..) As I said before, we need to stop the madness – this companies should not treat our follow drivers as a number in there Balance sheet. This has to stop.

  • Sadly Harry if the powers that be want to move
    our factory jobs over seas thats not good for us.
    But I think most people get really up set if the jobs
    that remain are not market rate. IE. if you cannot
    find people to do these jobs at what you are paying
    Pay more till you get them.
    So think auto work jobs (maybe a little easier than
    picking cabbage) but that should make picking cabbage a higher paying job.
    $38.00 plus to work in the field I will put on my
    sombrero and lots of sunscreen and go.
    This is interesting.

  • Are Canadian Carriers Abusing the TFWP?
    The trucking industry makes the banks look like rank amateurs!
    There are no shortage of trucking school graduates in Canada.
    When carriers say they can not find “qualified drivers” they mean drivers with over two or three years experience for insurance purposes.
    Carriers do not want to pay new drivers training and then expect the Canadian Government (and hence the Canadian taxpayer) to pick up the tab for their massive inefficiencies.
    The Canadian Government needs to track recent trucking school graduates to see how many of them are NOT being hired by the same carriers who cry to the government that they can not find “qualified drivers”.
    To make matters worse many of these Canadian truck school graduates are having part of their tuition paid for by one government program, while another government program is denying them jobs by importing “qualified drivers”.
    Every experienced driver today in Canada was once inexperienced too.
    This driver shortage is a total MYTH!

    • John: What you said about how one government program (provincial) helps Canadian trucking school students with tuition, while another government program (federal) is importing truck drivers really details how messed up this “truck driver shortage” fantasy really is.
      The Federal Governments needs to track which companies these Canadians trucking school graduates are applying to, and then make sure that these are not the same companies that are getting immigrant drivers.
      (Guess what, they are!)
      I hope Jason Kenney, or someone in his office is reading these comments.
      I was talking to a woman yesterday who was telling me that her nephew had completed a trucking driver training course then applied everywhere.
      Guess what. No work.
      They all said that unless he had two years experience they would not hire him.
      He now works in construction and has never used his truck driver training after spending thousands of dollars.
      But I know for a fact that these same companies have imported drivers through the Federal Government.

  • All trucking co.(s) should limited to one mechanic and one driver trainer per year per co until they can show their average driver is making is making $21.00 per hour and pays overtime after 50 hours per week

  • There isn’t a driver shortage it’s just drivers are getting out of trucking cause we’re sick and tired of watching are paycheque shrink. I have 24 yrs experience would love to go drive so more but the pay sucks now. My last employer told us to take a 35% paycut or get out. I was making a half decent living till that happened and that’s the 5th time. So I gave up driving and got a factory job with an automotive company and won’t go back to companies start paying all time and 2014 wages not 1980s . Good luck to the men and women who stay in trucking you’ve got one hell of a fight ahead of you.

  • Foreign workers are often not as experienced with our driving conditions and in English. This makes these drivers a hazard if not matched with a Canadian driver for 6 months. These drivers should only allowed to be matched in a owner-op team position who has at least a $10,000 deductible on the insurance. This increases the skin in the game by the drivers and dispatch for the first month should limit to 15 hours per day. Driver services should pay a min. of $23.00 per hour . to the driver passed on a punch clock. I make more money working at another job than can driving truck. I was on a short list for a $25.00 per hour truck job . They had over 300 drivers apply for 4 driving positions. There is no shortage of truck drivers just a shortage of driver willing to drive for 40 cents per mile and sit at a dock for 3 hours for $40.00 or owner operators for $1.17 per mile plus a $.40 cent fuel surcharge. or city work at $44.00 per hour with own tractor.

  • Harry, you were wrong, wrong and wrong on this one. We NEVER had to import workers. I started trucking in 1966. We made decent money for a number of years, but then the companies said they couldn’t afford to pay higher wages. B.S.!! What they’ve done is kept pay the same while everything else has increased. Importing foreign drivers is only to keep paying less than what they should. You say Canadians don’t want to truck. I have met many who say they would, but they can make more (much more) in other fields. IF there’s a driver shortage, just give us a decent increase and watch the shortage disappear.

  • I hope it’s finished.

    I graduated from Humber College with a DZ license and no company will take me on as a new driver.

    It’s not just trucking either. Every field of work now is refusing Canadians jobs in favour of foreign workers. It’s sad to see this country go this way, but give it a few years and people will storm Parliament Hill. I know a lot of people who are really pissed off that they can’t get any job at all with several diplomas/degrees/qualifications and the companies are saying they have a shortage of workers.

  • This is a very good article. I guess the current result we see with Canadian truckers have much deeper economic reasons. And deteriorating working conditions are one of them.