Yesterday, I took a look at the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and how it helps enforce labour discipline on all workers, and low-wage workers in particular. Today, I want to explore the migration side of the migrant worker equation. The context of migration not only makes it easier for employers to exploit TFWs, it also serves to obscure the common core of labour solidarity that should be at the basis of responses to the greater labour discipline that the TFWP enables.
While it is a truism that migrant labour built Canada, this same migrant labour has long been used to discipline domestic workers. Both facts are imprinted into the history of Canada. Today is no different and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is at the centre of debates about migrant labour. Often missing from the debate are the deep links between labour policy, (im)migration policy and the ways these interact to undermine the power and solidarity of workers.
From political proposals to street protests, unpaid internships have been making news in Canada. Rightfully so, as there is a litany of problems with unpaid internships. For individuals, unpaid internships can not only be a form of outright wage theft, they also help entrench class-based privilege that allows some the luxury of forgo income in exchange for work experience. Unpaid internships also distort the labour market and contribute to lower participation and higher unemployment, especially among young workers. For firms, of course, unpaid internships offer some real cost savings. There could, however, be another reason why unpaid internships are popular: they help remake the terms of the labour market itself.