B.C. officials are cracking down on foreign worker recruiters by requiring them to acquire a license starting in October.
Recruiters who connect foreign workers to jobs in B.C. have until October to acquire a licence.
According to the province, the licensing requirement will give better protection to workers new to Canada, including people who enter under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFW) and are more vulnerable to abuse in the workplace.
Licensed recruiter information will be posted online to a searchable registry so that employers and foreign workers can find out recruiters are licensed and in good standing.
The change will require recruiter licensing even if their business or main operations are located outside of the province and a license will be required for each individual recruiter. There is no fee for the licence, however, recruiters must submit a security bond of $20,000 that will be held in trust.
Unlicensed recruiters or ones that violate the Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act in could face penalties of up to $50,000, be imprisoned for up to one year or face both.
The requirement is the first phase of bringing the Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act into force. It will be administered through a new unit within the Employment Standards Branch. The second phase — expected to be launched later this year — involves establishing a new registration requirement for employers who hire temporary foreign workers.
“The exploitation of migrant workers is a significant and ongoing issue in B.C., as human rights cases such as the one involving Temporary Foreign Workers on the Canada Line have demonstrated,” said BC Federation of Labour president Laird Cronk in a statement to the Journal of Commerce. “These workers often have lower-wages, limited benefits and indebtedness to unscrupulous recruiters.”
In 2008 the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled that dozens of Canada Line workers, who came from Latin America to build the rapid transit link from Vancouver to Richmond, were given worse pay and benefits than European workers.
Cronk added that the federation applauds the NDP for strengthening protections for migrant workers and looks forward to reviewing the mechanics of the new licensing requirements in more detail. Cronk explained that the federation believes the provincial government needs to make significant investments in its next budget to further alleviate the precarious circumstances of migrant workers. This includes expanding MSP coverage to these workers and striking a cross-ministry task force with a mandate to make B.C. Canada’s first Sanctuary Province.
“The BCFED also wants to see more funding to support the employment standards branch in its enforcement work including proactive unannounced inspections of employers, and approval of accommodations before workers arrive,” said Cronk.
The province expects more than 500 recruiters to seek licensing. In 2017, the federal government issued approximately 47,620 work permits for foreign nationals bound for B.C., of which 16,865 were issued under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
“Workers coming to a new country must be confident that their rights are protected and that abusive recruiters will be held accountable,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour in a press release. “Licensing will help regulate the recruiting industry in B.C. and will ensure a level playing field for those recruiters who treat workers fairly.”