The sector faces ongoing worker shortages.
Ottawa–Food and beverage companies face a debilitating worker shortage and are looking to the federal and provincial governments to create an emergency Foreign Workers Program to deal with the situation.
Companies in the sector are reporting job vacancy rates of more than 20 per cent, says Kathleen Sullivan, President and CEO of Food & Beverage Canada (FBC) “The inability to secure a strong and stable workforce is impacting food security and economic recovery and is undermining our ability to support a domestic agriculture and food system.”
FBC is joined in a national lobbying and communications campaign to support the emergency program by Le Conseil de la transformation alimentaire du Québec, Food and Beverage Ontario, Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council, the Canadian Meat Council, BC Food & Beverage, Food & Beverage Manitoba, Food & Beverage Atlantic, the Bakery Association of Canada, and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association.
The groups have asked the agriculture ministers to implement the Foreign Workers program by Jan. 31 at the latest and extend it to the summer of 2023 during which time more permanent and long-term solutions to industry’s labour issues should be identified and phased in, Sullivan said.
The program would include increasing the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) CAP to 30 per cent, implementing measures to increase TFW application processing capacity and reduce processing times, immediately piloting an expedited application process for small and mid-sized businesses, introducing immediate pathways to permanent residency for TFWs through a new Pathways to Permanence Program for Food and Beverage Manufacturing Workers and implementing a pilot program with industry that directs refugees to the food and beverage manufacturing sector.
In the Fall Economic Statement in December, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced $85 million over the coming year to process permanent resident and temporary resident applications. As well, it could reduce processing times in key areas affected by the pandemic and to speed up the process to citizenship for permanent residents already in Canada.
“This announcement fully supports our request to increase resources to process applications for TFWs,” Sullivan said. “The government has further committed to come forward with a further strategy to address labour shortages.
“Some sectors were experiencing shortages prior to the pandemic that may take longer to resolve as businesses struggle to find enough workers with the required set of skills. Canada’s commitment to increase immigration levels and reduce backlogs should help alleviate pressure. The government has also committed to come forward with a further strategy to address labour shortages and will do so next year.”
Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in the Commons Dec. 16 that she is working with the ministers of employment and immigrations to increase the number of foreign workers. “We are making headway with this major reform. We want to acknowledge good employers. The vast majority of our employers and agricultural producers are good employers. We want to find a way to speed up the process and increase the ratio of foreign workers in plants, which has already been done with the Province of Quebec.”