New Proposal To Import Immigrant Truck Drivers Drawing Sharp Criticism
“Trucking companies can’t move overseas, so they’re trying to bring cheap labor to Canada. Instead of trying to suppress wage growth, the Ontario Trucking Association should be looking at ways to give truckers a big raise.” – François Laporte, president of Teamsters Canada
Ontario, Canada – A new proposal by the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) to begin a pilot program that would import immigrant drivers into Canada to help satisfy the need for more truckers is drawing sharp criticism.
Teamster’s Canada, the country’s largest transportation union, is pushing back on the OTA’s proposal calling it an horrific idea. “Trucking companies can’t move overseas, so they’re trying to bring cheap labor to Canada,” François Laporte, the president of Teamsters Canada, said in a news release. “Instead of trying to suppress wage growth, the Ontario Trucking Association should be looking at ways to give truckers a big raise.”
In a recent interview with Yahoo Finance Canada, president of the Ontario Trucking Association, Stephen Laskowski, made the case for the need to import immigrant labor. “The driver shortage became more acute in 2018 due to the fact that we have a large percentage of individuals over the age of 55 driving… we’re facing older demographics, more retirements and, at the same time, more demand,” said Laskowski, who is also the president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA).
According to a 2016 study conducted by the Trucking Alliance of Canada, the industry will be short 34,000 drivers by 2024. “It’s only expected it to get worse in 2019. This is an issue from a supply-chain perspective and we need to find a solution to it,” Laskowski warned.
The OTA has asked the province to consider launching a pilot project through the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (ONIP), which would help fill labour shortages with skilled international workers. A similar program was launched by the previous Liberal government in 2017. It focused primarily on attracting workers to specific jobs in the construction and agriculture sectors.
“We’re asking Ontario Premier Doug Ford to consider opening up that program to include the trucking industry,” Laskowski told Yahoo Finance Canada. “Because of the shortage of labor across the supply chain, we need to look at immigration in perhaps a different way than we did in the recent past.”
Laskowski said he believes this is the best path forward. “A pilot program would allow us to have a heck of a lot more access to overseas labor and make sure that that labor ends up with the carriers that are investing in their companies,” Laskowski said. “That what we want to see, and that’s how we want to grow.”
Teamster’s Canada which represents about 15,000 Canadian truck drivers, rejects the idea of importing “cheap labor.” It is calling on the province to reduce the cost to obtain a commercial driver’s license which can now exceed $10,000. It’s also imploring the provincial government to make trucking a skilled trade, which would then allow prospective truckers to have access to grants and other subsidies.
In addition, the union is urging OTA to focus its efforts on raising wages and improving working conditions which they claim is the most effective way to attract more workers into the trucking industry. The union says it is unacceptable that the wages of non-union truck drivers have remained stagnant for 35 years.
The immigration policy debate is also roiling the U.S. as the federal government remains partially shutdown due to disagreement in Congress about the funding for a southern border wall. These debates around smart immigration policy aren’t going to subside any time soon.