Labour shortages are a constant concern for farms across the country, with many farmers seeking temporary foreign workers to fill in the gaps. Twenty groups representing various Alberta farmers have recently begun lobbying for a review of the business law related to this important issue. The agricultural industry says 2014 changes to the law, designed to remove loopholes and prevent abuses, are making it difficult to bring in the workers they need.
One of the concerns voiced by the advocacy groups is processing times for applications to bring over foreign workers under the federal Temporary Foreign Worker program. According to a spokesperson for the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, processing time often takes between five and six months. This wait, along with the administrative burden, has prevented some farmers from taking advantage of the program.
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council recently reported that the agriculture industry in Canada has reached 59,000 workers, double what it was only a decade earlier. It is expected to reach 114,000 by 2025. The average vacancy rate on a farm is 7 to 10 percent, significantly higher than the national average of 2 percent.
Labour advocacy groups have their own recommendations for the government with regards to the review. They have requested that lawmakers make changes to protect the rights of employees who work under the Temporary Foreign Worker program, such as mandatory health and safety training. Alberta farmers and employees who have business law questions related to labourers and Temporary Foreign Workers should speak with a lawyer to address their questions.