RBC CEO's Open Letter Shows Foreign Worker issue Touching Nerve with Canadians
by Damien Gillis - The Canadian.orgAn open letter issued to Canadians by Royal Bank of Canada President and CEO Gord Nixon (read here) apologizing for his company's decision to shift 45 Canadian jobs to imported temporary foreign workers from India reflects a growing concern over the issue.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenny reacted to the scandal, stating, “The rules are very clear. You cannot displace Canadians to hire people from abroad.” And yet, RBC maintains it was acting in accordance with the rules. "The question for many people is not about doing only what the rules require - it’s about doing what employees, clients, shareholders and Canadians expect of RBC," Nixon argued in his letter.
RBC's predicament is just the latest incident calling into question the Harper Government's foreign temporary worker program, which permits Canadian companies to pay imported employees from other countries 15% less than equivalent Canadian workers.
The issue was brought into focus earlier this year with the controversy over a Chinese-owned mine in northeast BC planning to import 200 foreign labourers. The move prompted the Construction and Specialized Workers Union to launch a federal lawsuit, alleging that the company made no real effort to offer the jobs to Canadians first. Even BC Liberal Jobs Minister Pat Bell chimed in on a Vancouver radio program, calling the Harper Government's foreign temporary worker policy a failed program.
We have been reporting on this issue over the past year, raising questions about the Government and corporate resource sector's claims of labour and skill shortages to justify a now estimated 380,000 foreign temporary workers in Canada - despite mounting evidence that it's more about savings on labour and exerting downward pressure on Canadian wages across the board.
Herewith Gord Nixon's open letter to Canadians:
RBC has been in the news this week in a way no company ever wants to be.
The recent debate about an outsourcing arrangement for some technology services has raised important questions.
While we are compliant with the regulations, the debate has been about something else. The question for many people is not about doing only what the rules require - it’s about doing what employees, clients, shareholders and Canadians expect of RBC. And that’s something we take very much to heart.
Despite our best efforts, we don’t always meet everyone’s expectations, and when we get it wrong you are quick to tell us. You have my assurance that I’m listening and we are making the following commitments.
First, I want to apologize to the employees affected by this outsourcing arrangement as we should have been more sensitive and helpful to them. All will be offered comparable job opportunities within the bank.
Second, we are reviewing our supplier arrangements and policies with a continued focus on Canadian jobs and prosperity, balancing our desire to be both a successful business and a leading corporate citizen.
Third, our Canadian client call centres are located in Canada and support our domestic and our U.S. business, and they will remain in Canada.
Fourth, we are preparing a new initiative aimed at helping young people gain an important first work experience in our company, which we will announce in the weeks ahead.
RBC proudly employs over 57,000 people in Canada. Over the last four years, despite a challenging global economy, we added almost 3,000 full-time jobs in Canada. We also hire over 2,000 youth in Canada each year and we support thousands more jobs through the purchases we make from Canadian suppliers. As we continue to grow, so will the number of jobs for Canadians.
RBC opened for business in 1864 and we have worked hard since then to earn the confidence and support of the community. Today, we remain every bit as committed to earning the right to be our clients’ first choice, providing rewarding careers for our employees, delivering returns to shareholders who invest with us, and supporting the communities in which we are privileged to operate.
I’d like to close by thanking our employees, clients, shareholders and community partners for your input and continued support.
President and Chief Executive Officer,
Royal Bank of Canada
Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon.