Foreign workers pull disappearing act: employer
Updated Thu. May. 15 2008 10:25 AM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
The foreign worker program is causing big headaches, says one Calgary employer, who complains that 20 of his employees pulled a disappearing act soon after arriving in the country.
Calgary business owner, Owen Colbourne, has brought in 31 foreign labourers to work at his manufacturing and consulting company in the past 18 months.
But seven people never showed up to work and 13 left without warning. Those 20 missing workers hired by Coltons Consulting and Maintenance are now unaccounted for.
"I don't know what to say. I'm stuck for words. Very disappointed, used is the word," Colbourne told CTV.
No one knows exactly where the workers are but Colbourne believes they may have gone to work in Fort McMurray with the hopes of earning more money.
Colbourne started bringing over workers from the Philippines two years ago with the help of the federal Temporary Foreign Workers program.
Under the program, a worker can only stay in the country for up to two years. While they are here they can only work for the employer who initially sponsored them.
Canada Border Services says if the missing workers are still in Canada they face prosecution, criminal charges and possible deportation. Employers who hire these workers illegally could also be charged up to $50,000 in fines and/or spend up to two years in prison.
Despite the setbacks, Colbourne is currently applying to bring 15 more workers to the country.
"I can't give up. This is my livelihood," he said.
The Temporary Foreign Workers program is increasing in popularity, especially in Alberta where a surge of new construction projects has left business owners scrambling to fill the labour shortage.
There were 15,172 temporary foreign workers in Alberta in 2006, almost 46 per cent more than the previous year, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. A total of 112,658 were working in Canada in 2006.