Temporary foreign workers could fix Gander hiring woes, says Chamber of Commerce

Temporary foreign workers could fix Gander hiring woes, says Chamber of Commerce

The Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce says easing access to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) could help local businesses that say they are having trouble finding workers.

Chamber chair Debby Yannakidis said the program has been used in the past by local restaurants.

"We've had several businesses in the area as recent in the last couple of years that have been utilizing the program," said Yannakidis.

"So it has been successful and it can be successful."

Major changes came to the TFWP in 2014 after a CBC investigation into alleged abuse of the program. Yannakidis said the changes led to more "red tape" which makes it harder for businesses to apply.

"We want to encourage local businesses to hire local residents but if you can't stay in business because there are no people applying, you need to have that program," Yannakidis told CBC News. 

High unemployment, low application rate

The unemployment rate for Newfoundland and Labrador in February was 17 per cent. The TFWP bars employers from hiring low-wage temporary foreign workers when the unemployment rate is above 6 per cent. 

Yannakidis said she's hearing from employers in Gander that even with high unemployment, wanted ads are seeing low applications. 

"Not just the service industry," she said. "In a lot of businesses in the area that we're hearing. That it's very difficult to find applicants, period. And then in some cases maybe qualified applicants. But it is a struggle."

She added that bringing in new people to the province could help increase a falling population rate. 

"The Temporary Foreign Workers Program fulfills not only the jobs that we need to fill now but it also helps against the aging population," said Yannakidis.