I’ve just noticed a story that has been on the edge of my awareness: about temporary foreign workers coming to Canada. Here’s something from last week at the CBC (2014 August 14):
Here’s The Tyee’s in-depth exploration:
There’s more: read the whole article
The gist of the story, as I read it:
- Increasingly, Canada is creating opportunities for foreign guest workers to access the country’s labour market. The population of guest workers in Canada is growing.
- By Canadian standards, some guest workers are treated badly, and paid poorly.
- Business interests tend to favour letting in (less expensive) foreign labour, because of course in some situations, this can reduce their labour costs.
- Labour interests say that guest worker programs are exploitive in various ways to domestic and foreign workers: lower wages, and poor working conditions, respectively.
- The Tyee writes a story about guest worker programs as “an unseen pillar of Canada’s economic policy.”
As a juxtaposition, there’s Thomas Friedman’s 2005 book, The World Is Flat, in which he wrote about an increasingly-globalized 21st century market for labour, and the rise of a global competition for work in which many North American workers would be outbid.
Another juxtaposition: the remarkable shift in recent years from permanent full-time work to part-time, contract and temp work, or as Maclean’s Magazine put it in 2012, The End Of The Job.
All this flattening, pacifying, destabilizing and mobilizing of labour: it serves the (short-sighted) interests of capital. Corporations might say that to compete in a global marketplace, they need access to the cheapest workers, wherever they may be—and perhaps they’d be correct. But these global economic transitions, these shifts in the flow of capital and labour: do they have a steady state, some sort of global balance? I’m thinking, they might, but I can’t foresee it.
Some people are talking about corporate (neo)feudalism (a way to think about what’s now emerging). That makes some sense. I myself am keen on bioregions (I live in Cascadia, after all). I am reminded, and encouraged: the future is unevenly distributed.