Victim or menace: Notes on the TFWP and political agency

The louder the debate about temporary foreign workers grows, the more it seems temporary foreign workers, especially those from the global South performing low-wage labour, are left in the din on the sidelines. While there have been stories about exploitation on the job and beyond, much of the focus is on Canadian resident workers, business owners and the Program itself as an object of “abuse”.

When migrant workers are present, they are often placed at two opposing end-points on a spectrum of agency. At times, they are described as helpless victims at the exploitative whim of businesses and government regulations. Other times, however, they are presented as taking away “Canadian” jobs, actively affecting the labour market outcomes of resident workers.

There is a contradiction between representations that depict either an abject passivity or a kind of near malice – sometimes even simultaneously. (more…)

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Temporary Foreign Workers demand justice

The Temporary Foreign Workers Program has been increasingly in the spotlight the last few weeks. Many allegations have surfaced about the appalling living and working conditions faced by migrant workers. While much of the media coverage has ignored what is most important, my two guests on this week’s podcast are ready to offer some correctives.

First, Jason Foster speaks about the history of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and its role in structural changes to Canada’s labour market – changes that have seen working conditions and security decline across the board. Jason teaches at Athabasca University; his research has focused on migrant labour.

Second, Adriana Paz-Ramirez provides more of the perspective of migrant workers themselves and links their struggle for justice to labour solidarity as well as immigration reform. Adriana is a long-time organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers.

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