Deliberately lax visa rules encouraged RBC outsourcing
TheStar.com – news/Canada – In the name of the economy, Ottawa is helping companies to export good Canadian jobs.
Apr 09 2013. By: Thomas Walkom
There are three stories involved in the Royal Bank’s controversial decision to replace Canadian high-tech workers with foreigners.
The first is that Canadian companies are sending good jobs abroad where wages are low. The Royal Bank is hardly unique here. It just happened to be the company that got caught.
The second is perhaps more galling for the 45 laid-off Canadian information technology workers. It is that they are being required to train their own replacements. This is where most of furor has focused.
The third is that Canada’s government not only allows both practices but encourages them.
So far, most attention has been focused — incorrectly, as far as I can make out — on Canada’s temporary foreign worker program.
That’s the program under which employers are allowed to bring in foreign help if they can prove to Ottawa that no qualified Canadians can be found to do the work.
It’s true that the government has been shamefully lax in enforcing the rules that do exist for this program. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has allowed firms to bring in foreign temporary workers simply to avoid paying higher wages.
But the Royal Bank controversy demonstrates that Ottawa is equally lax in granting other types of work visas for companies anxious to shed high-priced Canadian help.
On CBC, Royal Bank CEO Gord Nixon said that only one of 14 foreigners brought in to be trained by soon-to-be-axed Canadian IT professionals was granted a temporary foreign worker visa.
The other 13 got in through another loophole. Which one? The Royal Bank had no comment when I asked. Nor had iGate, the firm that employs the disputed workers. A spokesman there carefully chose not to answer my question.
One possible culprit is something called an intra-company transfer visa, or ICT.
Originally set up to let multinationals shift key employees around with little hassle, the government’s ICT program is now touted by immigration lawyers as a sure-fire way to avoid bothersome red tape.
In particular, a company need not search for capable Canadian help before applying to bring in foreign workers under the ICT program. A so-called Labour Market Opinion, stating that no qualified Canadian is available, is not required.
All that is required is that the foreigners be employed by an affiliate of the company importing them and possess an “advanced level of knowledge” about the company’s procedures with an aim to ‘improve managerial effectiveness . . . and enhance the competitiveness of Canadian entities in overseas markets.”
In the Royal Bank case, the foreign workers were brought in not by the bank but by its “partner” iGate, a high-tech company based in Bangalore, India but nominally headquartered in the U.S.
According to U.S. regulatory filings, the Royal Bank is iGate’s second-biggest customer and a “preferred vendor partner.”
In an email, iGate, which has branch offices in Toronto, Mississauga and Calgary, said it obeys all local laws.
The Royal Bank makes no secret about its intentions. It wants to cut costs and boost profits (which came in at a record $7.5 billion last year). It hopes to do so in part by outsourcing Canadian jobs to iGate’s low-wage Indian operation.
That’s the first tragedy. Among other things, it demonstrates the absurdity of the federal government’s new training agenda. What’s the point of learning a skill if even highly skilled jobs are being exported abroad?
The second tragedy has to do with government itself.
Yes, the Conservatives are focused on what they call the economy. But their economy is a ruthless, inhuman task-master.
It demands that the very profitable Royal Bank be even more profitable. It demands that 45 highly trained people lose their jobs. It demands that Canada’s visa system allow all of this to happen.
The government serves this economy faithfully. Whom does this economy serve?
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