Worker Shortage Jeopardises Canada's Pork Trade Opportunities

CANADA - The Canadian Meat Council says difficulties in attracting workers will make it challenging for Canada's pork processors to take full advantage of new international trade agreements, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 2 December 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

Under changes made in June to Canada's temporary foreign worker program the number of foreign workers that make up the work force has been capped at 30 per cent, a non-refundable C$1,000 fee has been introduced for each application and the length of stay has been cut in half.

Ron Davidson, the director of international trade, government and media relations with the Canadian Meat Council, says in spite of aggressive constant recruitment we aren't able to find enough Canadians to work in Canadian meat processing plants.

Ron Davidson-Canadian Meat Council:

Everybody is doing everything they can to find any Canadian that's willing to work in the industry.
There are probably 600 empty positions on the production line in the meat industry today.

We could be hiring that number of people tomorrow if the Canadians were willing to take these jobs on.

We're doing everything we can to find them.

Across the industry companies are now today doing less value added because they don't have the workers to do it.

They are taking specialty meats such as offals that we used to export and they are being put into rendering as waste because we don't have enough workers to harvest them.

As a result, in a very low margin industry, the areas where the companies should be making a positive margin are gone so we are actually going to be going forward producing less meat, buying less cattle and having less competitiveness.

We already pay more than the US does for our labor.

These are mostly union jobs, we pay relocation allowances.

At the present time we do not have and we do not have prospects of finding a labor force that would let us take advantage of these new trade agreements.

Mr Davidson says processors should be able to acquire foreign specialists when they've proved they can't find enough Canadian to do the work and suggests, under proper constraints, the express entry programme is the best option to do that.

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