Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Temporary Foreign Workers

A decade ago I was effectively an itinerant farm worker in Australia. The Australian fruit and vegetable harvest industry relies heavily on a large army of 20-something year old international travellers on working holiday permits to pick and pack produce. Take away the backpackers and the fruit rots on the trees. I was able to save money and continue travelling around the world after I left Australia. With a few notable exceptions, my Australian employers paid me well and would sometimes even ask whether my colleagues and I were being paid enough to live on! Even the exceptions were still bound by law to pay me according to specific rates. While much of the work was piece-rate, the hourly wages were mandated at about $12/hr. It was really easy to save enough to hang out in Asia for months and months.

I came back to Canada and started working in our harvest industry thinking it would be a quick way to save some cash. No such luck here. Canadian farmers paid minimum wage and provided minimal facilities. I actually lost money working in a Canadian orchard and ended up living under a tarp. Canada now has an ever expanding guest worker program that allows them to pay their workers even less than Canadians.

It doesn't surprise me to read that the Vancouver Canada Line skytrain builders from Latin America were paid less than their European colleagues. It doesn't surprise me at all to read that lawyers for SNC Lavalin and Seli are arguing this is somehow fair despite a human rights ruling against them.

The Aussie ideal of the 'fair go' is missing in this country.

In graduate school, I found the faculties basically ignored the Collective Agreement covering how employed students were to be paid and their working conditions.

It's cultural, I think. Maybe a holdover from our European feudal origins, and its legacy of dehumanising the working classes. Maybe there's a subtle inheritance from the history of natural resource exploitation, the wealthy corporations that produced, and the willingness to build that wealth on the backs of the "other".

Whatever the case, there's a prickishness in this country that I sense is less visible elsewhere. Maybe that's why we need things like the Charter and Human Rights Tribunals. Maybe that's why Harper is so damned appealing to a third of the voting public.


Gloria said...

Harper envies China, their cheap slave wages. Harper envies China's Human Rights because, they don't have any. Child laborers, only earn pennies a day. Working conditions so horrible. In a factory, Chinese must sign a statement, they won't commit suicide. Harper is seduced by, China has no democracy. Chinese people have no Civil Rights and Liberties. They have no Freedom of Speech.

I see no Charter in Canada anymore. Our Human Rights are quickly vanishing.

Provinces should get the hell out of Harper's Canada, if they have any sense. Harper is a total tyrant, with no ethics nor morals, what-so-ever. This country isn't Canada anymore anyway. Who in the hell needs Ottawa and Harper? For what? To steal us blind? Give our resources and jobs to a Communist country? Who in their right minds, wants to be sold out, to a Communist country?

CSIS warned of Communist China's huge inroads into Canada. However, as Canadians we preferred to slumber on. Now people are starting to wake up, in a panic.

CSIS specifically named BC. Who did Campbell give our resources to? Communist China of course.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's a hold over from the Euro-feudal thing as many continental countries have some really good quality of life measures. France restricts the movement of large vehicles over weekends and the holidays so folk can use the roads, they also have maximum working week laws etc.
I just think that N American protestants have conflated christianity with profit at all costs and have turned ripping people off into a tenet of their new faith.
They've forgotten life is for living and have really screwed up at every turn. The most greedy singleminded country in the modern era is now broke beyond redemption but is so deluded it cannot recognise it.
Sad really

Lorne said...

Having just returned from two weeks in Italy, where the ethos seems to be quality of life rather than quantity of hours worked (e.g. stores closed from 1-4 p.m. every day) made me realize how blinkered and joyless we have become in North America. I think our continent needs to realize that there are ways to work to live rather than live to work.

Silverfox said...

I can only re-iterate what a far wiser man once said more than 2300 years ago and about the same perennial problem for it is indeed even older than that and is only ever periodically hidden from sight in order to lull and distract our concnscience and consciousness sufficiently enough launch even greater assaults against them...

"The price that good men pay for their indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." - Plato