Satan must have been strapping on the ice skates last week, or at least wondering if he needed to put on a warmer jacket. Amidst rapidly mounting public outrage, the president of the Royal Bank of Canada issued a public apology last week.
At issue was a move by Canada’s largest bank (which, incidentally, turned a record profit of $7.6 billion last year) to outsource its IT department to an international company, which would use 45 temporary foreign workers to do the work. To add a final topping of insult to injury, the about-to-be-laid-off workers were expected to train their contracted replacements.
This is not a recipe for public relations happiness. In fact, it could hardly be worse. Hence the public apology from RBC president Gordon Nixon. The good news is he promises to ensure the employees will be found new positions elsewhere in the bank’s operations.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has vowed to reform the temporary foreign worker program, which he said was intended to provide “temporary help in cases where there are absolute and acute labour shortages.” But the bad news is it turns out that lots of companies, including Tim Hortons and A&W, find they have an acute shortage of skilled workers in their sector as well, necessitating the need for hiring temporary foreign workers.
Companies have been outsourcing call centres for customer service and similar activities to other lands for a long time, so displacing Canadian workers is nothing new.
But bringing in workers on temporary permits and paying them less to do the same job has become rampant. According to some statistics, temporary foreign workers are employed by 33,000 Canadian companies to fill more than 200,000 positions in all areas of the economy.
When you compare that to the number of Canadian citizens out of work, those figures are more than just bad PR.