Are "illegal" immigrants squeezing the home renovation and home building industry in the GTA area?Canadian Contractor Business canada Insurance Liability Vehicle
Let's push for amnesty for foreign construction workers, making them legal, so they can now pay into our social systems. We actually need them to contribute legitimately to our tax base, with our huge wave of baby boomers set to retire.
One veteran painting contractor I met with this week told me: “There are too many illegal immigrants now in the business.” After over 25 years of self-employment, he said he was getting “squeezed out.”
“How can any legitimate business compete against others working for $10 or less an hour,” he asked.
Legitimate businesses have running costs like vehicles, liability insurance, WSIB, health & safety requirements like WHMIS and Fall Protection training, taxes and the HST. This particular contractor told me that he believes the unions are involved in this situation, and he could be right.
Andy Manahan, of Universal Workers Union Local 183, said in an article in the Globe and Mail (way back in October 2006), in an article by Maria Jimenez, that he hoped that “Ottawa will not move to deport about 200,000 undocumented workers in Toronto, many of whom are keeping the construction sector afloat.”
Ottawa ruled out amnesty for those undocumented workers who were toiling in Canada’s underground economy at that time, saying it would not be fair to those who had applied legally and were waiting in line.
I ask you, how can we still have a situation like this in 2013, seven years after the problems were clearly identified?
Yet, we still do have this problem as clearly shown in the last few days in a series articles in the Toronto Star by journalist Nicholas Keung. Keung is covering the protests against Harper’s “Refugee Reform Bill,” which is finally attempting to deal with the problems. Keung reported that in the City of Toronto there are anywhere between 100,000 to 250,000 undocumented immigrants right now and those numbers might get even higher in 2015, when four-year work permits for temporary foreign workers expire, potentially moving thousands more into the underground. In 2012, 340,000 foreigners were on work permits in Canada.
So, how can legitimate contractors compete against these practices? Are some contractors using these illegal immigrants, paying rock bottom hourly rates? Many of these immigrants work in fear of deportation, while these unscrupulous contractors or employment agencies profit. Illegals or undocumented workers don’t have OHIP and can’t go to doctors, nor can their children. They don’t pay into CPP. What about WSIB premiums, are these being paid? How about safety training under the Occupational Health & Safety Act to protect them and everyone else? Do they carry course completed certificates, as required under law?
It’s time someone cleaned up this mess. Recently, I parked my vehicle outside a huge home off Bayview Ave in Toronto. There was a painter working outside on this home, without a vehicle in sight. When he saw me walking toward him, wearing a white hard hat and carrying a clipboard in my hand, I watched him quickly disappear around the corner of that home, abandoning his ladders, brushes, paint and more. It really looked like he was running away in fear and this was a sad situation.
If our industry needs more people, let’s find them and make them legal. But it’s important to remember that there are also large numbers of applicants waiting to get in to Canada legally, just the way I had to wait. So this present situation is unjust and the blame is on our governments for this mess. Let’s fix this current situation and protect and improve everyone’s quality of life. Let’s push for amnesty for those who can prove they have made great contributions to Canada’s well-being and have been law-abiding. There are thousands of these potential workers and Canada will need every able-bodied person to support help pay into its systems in the years ahead, especially with the huge wave of baby boomers starting to retire.CARAHS is a not for profit association for self employed home renovators & builders association
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