Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Building Concerns

The Toronto Star usually takes fits whenever Canadians get laid off, have their jobs offshored, or get exploited by their bosses.

So it's surprising to see that, in its concern for the fate of illegal construction workers from Portugal, it's willing to give the construction companies who hire them a platform to promote a practice that drives down wages and creates a workforce practically unprotected by law:

A prominent GTA developer has condemned the federal government for wanting to toss "honest, hard-working" illegal immigrants from Portugal and other countries out of Canada.

"There is definitely a shortage of workers in the construction industry right now, and it doesn't matter — from road building to plumber to bricklayers — there is a shortage," Silvio De Gasperis told the Toronto Star yesterday.

"This process should be stopped until they get a chance to review and assess the entire situation," said De Gasperis, one of the country's largest private developers. "Maybe if they did they would realize that the good families, the honest people, should be staying and working."

It has been estimated that there are between 10,000 and 15,000 illegal immigrants working in southern Ontario's construction and hospitality industries; some estimates put the number of undocumented workers across the country as high as 300,000.

The contractors' general line of argument goes like this: Canadians won't do the job, so when there's a building boom, we need to get workers where we can find them, and to hell with the law and paperwork.

However, an employer has a lot more control over an illegal worker, by virtue of his illegal status, than he would over a Canadian worker.

A Canadian worker who knows his rights under our labour laws is more likely to stand to a boss who might demand that he perform unreasonably unsafe work, or work excessive mandatory overtime, or not report his injuries to workmen's comp.

He doesn't have to worry about the threat of a phone call to immigration and having him and his family kicked out of the country.

Perhaps more Canadians would do the job, if strict enforcement of immigration laws dried up the source of illegals and wages ceased to be driven down as a result.

It's rich, however, when the self-proclaimed newspaper voice of the working man ends up defending the most exploitative of labour practices.

1 comment:

A. Carlton Sallet said...

Hmmm...I think I see where the Star's coming from:

Muslim refugees? Good.

Catholic illegal immigrants? Bad.

All makes sense now really....