Changes in TFW program affects Pinoy business owners

By Marjorie Carmona Newman, ABS-CBN Canada

Posted at Jul 25 2014 09:44 AM | Updated as of Jul 25 2014 11:40 PM

CANADA - Employers reacted negatively to recent changes in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Lydia Jimenez co-owns the Palabok House, a Filipino restaurant in Edmonton that's been operating for 20 years.

She availed of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in 2006. She has 10 employees and most of them are Filipino temporary workers.

“Magkaka-problema ako dahil number 1, it is expensive to pay $1,000 renewal for the foreign workers. Number 2, it’s very hard to find employees for a Filipino authentic restaurant,” said Jimenez.

Major challenges facing employers in hiring foreign workers are the increased costs in processing LMO's (Labor Market Opinions) and the salary they have to offer to foreign workers if they wish to avail of the TFW program.

“The new policy that I read two weeks ago sinabi ni Mr. Kenney [referring to employment minister Jason Kenney] na I have to pay $24 Per hour if I hire foreign workers and I can't afford to hire somebody and pay $24. I have to put up the price in the menu so that I can afford to continue my business. If not, I have to close the restaurant if I don't have anybody to work for the Palabok House,” said Jimenez.

Filipino community leader Eloisa Blanco Lao said the new program will affect mostly Filipinos, minority businesses, especially Filipino restaurants because they specialize in Filipino foods.

“It’s gonna be hard for these Filipino restaurants to hire non-Filipino workers because first of all, if you hire them you have to train them and if they have no idea what the food is, it’s hard to know if it is the right thing,” said Lao.

Employers will now have to resort to drastic measures to maintain their business.

“I will have to hire Canadians which I hired before. The problem is they don’t know how to cook Filipino foods,” said Jimeneez.

Another change in the TFW program is the requirement that main source countries for foreign workers must be developing countries.

Will the Philippines qualify?

“Para sa akin, challenge ito sa government ng Pilipinas dahil third world country ang Pilipinas. Ngayon, magkaka-problema ang mga contract workers sa batas na ito sa Canada. Siguro panahon na para magbago ang government sa Pilipinas na i-lift ang economy,” said Edmonton resident, Joseph Elizalde.

Reforms also include stronger enforcement and tougher penalties for employers violating the rules of the program. This includes an increase in the number and scope of warrantless inspections, suspension, blacklisting and imposition of monetary fines for employers guilty of abuse.