Friday, October 15, 2021

Farmers, meat packers plead for workers

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), Mushrooms Canada and the Canadian Meat Council are pleading with the federal government for more temporary foreign workers.

A new online application form that was supposed to make the process quicker and easier has been down since August with no indication when the federal government will get it up and running again.

Meanwhile meat packers said they are desperately short of workers and want the government to increase the cap on foreign workers from 20 to 30 per cent of their workforce..

“When we talk about unfilled jobs, what we’re talking about is lost opportunity,” said Mary Robinson, CFA president. 

The CFA estimated the agriculture industry lost about $2.9-billion in revenue in 2020 because of low productivity, or about 4.5 per cent of overall sales.

Canadian agriculture has increasingly relied on bringing in workers from overseas to make up for shortfalls in domestic hiring. According to a Statistics Canada analysis from 2020, 27.4 per cent of all workers on crop production in Canada were temporary foreign workers (TFWs)..

Marie-France MacKinnon, vice-president of public affairs at the Canadian Meat Council, said her group wants the cap restored to 30 per cent which it was in 2014.

“Our labour shortage is critical right now,” MacKinnon said. “It’s over 4,000 empty butcher stations from across the country.”

Mark Chambers, vice-president Sunterra Farms, a large Alberta pork producer with a packing plant, said his production runs below capacity because of a shortage of workers. He said his pork-processing plant has 120 stations, 20 of which are empty because there is no one to work them.