Restaurant association calls for lifting of freeze on temporary foreign workers

Published on May 28, 2014
Garth Whyte, president Restaurants Canada, is joined by Liam Dolan, chair, and other industry leaders from across Canada, during a press conference requesting an emergency meeting with Prince Minister Stephen Harper addressing a labour shortage in the food service industry.

The largest restaurant association in the country is calling for an immediate end to the moratorium on temporary foreign workers in the food service industry and wants an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Restaurants Canada says the labour shortage in the industry has reached a crisis level in some regions of the country as a result of the moratorium.

“It’s having a negative impact not only on our business owners, but on their employees as well,” said Garth Whyte, president and CEO of Restaurants Canada.

“We need the government to act now.”

The association, which represents over 30,000 members across the country, is holding meetings in Prince Edward Island this week.

Charlottetown restaurant owner and Restaurants Canada chair Liam Dolan said Tuesday board members from across the country identified the labour shortage crisis as the single most important issue affecting their businesses.

He said he is seeing an especially large shortage of cooks. 

“I’ve been in business for 31 years, and this is the worst I’ve seen a shortage of cooks in this province,” Dolan said.

“I’m open six days a week in the winter and seven days a week in the summer. And I’m seriously considering not opening on Sundays.”

This will affect everyone who works in his restaurant, including students he said.

The moratorium was imposed on the food and services sector about a month ago after national media stories emerged about employers in several provinces accused of hiring foreign workers over Canadians.

Complaints emerged that temporary foreign workers were being given more hours and more shifts for less pay than their Canadian counterparts.

Whyte said the federal government is penalizing the entire food service industry in Canada for abuses by a minority of restaurant owners.

“We want to be part of the solution,” he said.

“We think there could be tougher rules on those that abuse (the program). We are strongly against misusing this program."

Restaurants Canada has launched an online petition called ‘Protecting Canadian Jobs’ that has already gathered close to 3,000 signatures from business owners and employees.

It is calling for an emergency meeting with Harper to discuss the labour shortage crisis in the industry.

“We’re serious, this is important,” Whyte said.

“We need to meet with the prime minister and they need to take this ban off immediately.”