Lobsters, Jason Kenney and the future of the Maritime fishing economy

The lobster processors in the Maritimes are saying they are unable to handle the volume of work because of a lack of workers.   The feds are cracking down on temporary foreign workers – they are insisting that in high unemployment areas the processors should be able to find workers.

This issue is starting to become a front line issue.  How much of the onus should be on employers?  Should they be forced to raise wages?  Or should they be allowed to hire TFWs after they have made a reasonable attempt to hire locally?

Could TFWs actually be part of the long term solution to seasonal industries like fish processing?  In the old model, a local works in the plant for relatively low wages and then collects EI the rest of the year.  In the TFW model, they work in the plant and then go home (most of them) – and do not avail themselves of EI or other public services.  From an economic development perspective, the provincial economy still benefits from a significant chunk of economic activity – the non-TFW wages, supply chain spending, shipping, profits, etc.  without the public costs.

Anyway, this is an interesting debate.  Some processors are threatening to shut down completely.  They insist with the market the way it is, their business model cannot handle a big spike in wages.

My own feeling on this is that some of the onus should be on employers to try and find workers but the standard should be ‘reasonable’.  Due effort should be applied but if they can’t find workers – even if there are thousands of unemployed at their doorstep – they shouldn’t be expected to do unreasonable things to bring those folks in the door.

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