SIU of Canada welcomes changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

September 13, 2018
New policy ensures safeguards for temporary workers and increases access to jobs for Canadian Seafarers


OTTAWA, Sept. 13, 2018 – On September 11, 2018 Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) implemented changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to address issues in the maritime industry. These changes are the result of the SIU of Canada’s ongoing advocacy efforts to improve the TFWP and ensure Canadian seafarers retain the first right to be employed in any available maritime jobs in Canada.


Under the new policy, all foreign vessel operators or Canadian charterers obtaining a Coasting Trade Waiver for a vessel for more than thirty days must obtain a letter of concurrence or objection from the SIU Canada with regards to crewing. This ensures that qualified SIU members and other Canadian seafarers are offered these jobs prior to a foreign seafarer being granted a work permit. Changes will also safeguard foreign seafarers against exploitation as Canadian vessel charterers will no longer be able to use the TFWP to employ cheap foreign labour as a means to undermine the Canadian maritime industry and Canadian seafarers.


“This is a significant and hard-fought victory for Canadian seafarers and the collective Canadian maritime industry,” says James Given, President, SIU of Canada. “We commend the government staff from ESDC who were involved in this process and on the Advisory Committee for their hard work and dedication in developing this new policy which was truly not an easy task to take on.”


In 2015, the SIU filed 42 lawsuits stating that the Government of Canada was violating the TFWP by systematically issuing work permits to non-Canadian crew members of hundreds of foreign ships engaged in Cabotage in Canadian waters. The SIU found evidence that many of these foreign workers made as little as $2.41 per hour while working in Canada. In July 2016, the SIU filed an additional 13 lawsuits with similar allegations. As part of the settlement terms with the SIU, the Government of Canada committed to conducting a full review of the TFWP policies and procedures as they relate to the use of TFWs employed on foreign-flagged vessel operating in Canadian maritime Cabotage.


In May 2017, Maritime Sector Review Governance Advisory Committee was established to draft a new TFWP policy. The Advisory Committee includes parties identified as having a vested interest in the policy development including maritime employers and Canadian vessel charterers, with the SIU Canada assuming the lead in representing maritime labour stakeholders.


“The next step will be ensuring that there are enforcement and regulatory procedures in place to ensure these policy changes are being strictly enforced,” says Given. “We look forward to reviewing all new departmental directives that will be implemented to address the enforcement and integrity of this policy.”


The SIU of Canada strongly believes this policy will provide greater clarity for inter-departmental cooperation for those tasked with enforcing maritime-specific immigration policies and for those tasked with looking after the welfare of all seafarers, both foreign and Canadian alike. The policy will dramatically improve the TFWP’s implementation in the maritime industry and is the result of years of work, protests, demonstrations and advocacy by the SIU.




About the SIU of Canada: The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) is affiliated with the Seafarers’ International Union of North America serving unlicensed sailors since 1938. The most important sailors’ union in Canada, the SIU represents the majority of unlicensed sailors working aboard vessels on the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, on the East and West Coasts.