Pay up

The Compass - - Editorial -

It’s sup­ply and de­mand. Just not the way you’re think­ing of it. The Gan­der and area Cham­ber of Com­merce is the lat­est busi­ness group to sug­gest that the in­abil­ity to hire work­ers in the ser­vice in­dus­try shows a clear need for more tem­po­rary for­eign work­ers.

Tem­po­rary for­eign work­ers come to this coun­try to fill the jobs Cana­di­ans don’t want to do - at least, jobs Cana­di­ans don’t want to do at the (usu­ally min­i­mum wage) rate of pay that em­ploy­ers are will­ing to of­fer.

The prov­ince’s Fed­er­a­tion of Labour thinks dif­fer­ently. It ac­tu­ally has the temer­ity to sug­gest that busi­nesses might have to pay enough to make jobs at­trac­tive.

And, frankly, we’re go­ing to side with the fed­er­a­tion on this one.

The prov­ince’s un­em­ploy­ment rate is 16.7 per cent, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment fig­ures. That’s five per cent above any other prov­ince in Canada.

Yet the so­lu­tion is to bring in work­ers to fill the jobs we do have?

If peo­ple won’t work for you be­cause your pay and ben­e­fits are not good enough to make the work worth their while, well, maybe your busi­ness plan is flawed.

If peo­ple won’t work for you be­cause your pay and ben­e­fits are not good enough to make the work worth their while, well, maybe your busi­ness plan is flawed.

Af­ter all, it is part of the big cap­i­tal­ist equa­tion, isn’t it?

If you can’t find a sup­ply of work­ers be­cause you pay too lit­tle to get them to work, you prob­a­bly have to pay enough to meet their de­mand for a rea­son­able wage. And you prob­a­bly have to do that even if it in­creases the price of your prod­ucts. Why? Be­cause if you sim­ply get ac­cess to an­other cheaper labour pool, what you are ef­fec­tively do­ing is re­ceiv­ing a leg­isla­tive sub­sidy. You gain a ben­e­fit from par­tic­u­lar im­mi­gra­tion rules; chang­ing the rules gets you cheap work­ers, and makes your prod­uct or ser­vice prof­itable at a lower price point. Put the shoe on the other foot.

We might all want to drive a new car - but if it costs too much for us to buy that car, do we get to tell car deal­er­ships that they have to sell us their prod­uct at a lower price that we can af­ford? Do we get to bring in a new car from an­other juris­dic­tion, one with a much-lower sales tax, and not have to pay this prov­ince’s 15 per cent HST? Of course not.

You could make more of an ar­gu­ment for tem­po­rary for­eign work­ers if the pro­gram was ac­tu­ally a bona fide way to help peo­ple im­mi­grate to a prov­ince like ours, which is rapidly ag­ing and that is clearly go­ing to need more peo­ple. The prob­lem is that it isn’t any­thing of the kind. More than any­thing, it cy­cles money out of the prov­ince as work­ers send a share of their pay home to far-off fam­i­lies.

Let­ting busi­nesses out-source jobs doesn’t help the prov­ince - what it does do is help in­di­vid­ual bot­tom lines. And that’s not enough.

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