Food and beverage is Canada’s largest manufacturing sector, employing almost 300,000 workers. The industry is currently facing a debilitating workforce crisis, with companies reporting vacancy rates of over 20%. The inability to secure a strong and stable workforce is impacting food security and economic recovery and is undermining our ability to support a domestic agriculture and food system.
In November, industry asked Canada’s federal and provincial Agriculture Ministers to implement immediate actions to alleviate the labour crisis facing the food and beverage manufacturing sector now and over the coming 18 months, with a focus on an emergency Foreign Workers Program. FBC-ABC, Le Conseil de la transformation alimentaire du Québec (CTAQ), Food and Beverage Ontario, CPEPC, the Canadian Meat Council, BC Food & Beverage, Food & Beverage Manitoba, Food & Beverage Atlantic, the Bakery Association of Canada, and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association have now joined forces to launch a national lobbying and communications campaign in support of this request.
Emergency Foreign Worker Program
National associations are asking the federal government to implement an Emergency Foreign Worker Program by January 31, 2022, at the latest, and that it remain in place for 18 months, through to summer 2023, during which time more permanent and long-term solutions to industry’s labour issues should be identified and phased in. The full Emergency Foreign Worker Program would include:
· Increasing the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) CAP to 30%.
· Implementing measures to increase TFW application processing capacity and reduce processing times.
· Immediately piloting an expedited application process for small and mid-sized businesses.
· Introducing immediate pathways to permanent residency for TFWs through a new Pathways to Permanence Program for Food and Beverage Manufacturing Workers.
· Implementing a pilot program with industry that directs refugees to the food and beverage manufacturing sector.
Fall Economic Statement Promises Money for TFW and Immigration Processing
In the federal Fall Economic Statement, released this week, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced $85 million over the coming year to process permanent resident and temporary resident applications and reduce processing times in key areas affected by the pandemic and to speed up the process to citizenship for permanent residents already in Canada. This announcement fully supports our request to increase resources to process applications for TFWs. The government has further committed to come forward with a further strategy to address labour shortages.
“.. some sectors were experiencing shortages prior to the pandemic that may take longer to resolve as businesses struggle to find enough workers with the required set of skills. Canada’s commitment to increase immigration levels and reduce backlogs should help alleviate pressure. The government has also committed to come forward with a further strategy to address labour shortages and will do so next year.”
We will be reporting to you weekly on our progress. FBC-ABC and its members are identifying companies that want to support the campaign. To participate– through media interviews, lobby meetings, and social media profiles – contact Kathleen Sullivan or your association.