Food and beverage is Canada’s largest manufacturing employer with almost 300,000 workers. The industry is currently facing a debilitating workforce crisis, with companies reporting vacancy rates of over 20%. 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.
In their mandate letters, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion are asked to “develop a sector-specific Agricultural Labour Strategy to address persistent and chronic labour shortages in farming and food processing in the short and long term.”
The agri-food sector has embarked on a 2-year project to develop a long-term Agriculture and Food & Beverage Manufacturing Workforce Strategic Plan to address industry’s chronic labour issues. This project, led by the Canadian Agriculture Human Resources Council (CAHRC), the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), and Food and Beverage Canada, will bring together agri-food leaders and stakeholders to examine issues such as: industry attractiveness and culture, skills development, automation, underrepresented groups and the role of foreign workers. Work began on the project in fall 2021 and will conclude in summer 2023.
Despite the work on a long-term strategy, industry urgently requires immediate short-term measures to address the today’s labour crisis and to stabilize the workforce. In November 2021 industry asked the Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) Agriculture Ministers to implement immediate actions to alleviate the urgent labour crisis facing the food and beverage manufacturing over the upcoming 18 months, with a focus on an Emergency Foreign Workers Program.
Eleven industry associations presented an initial proposal for an Emergency Foreign Workers Program in December 2021. Following further consultation, the following refined proposal is being advanced. This refined proposal builds on existing programs within Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) – in particular, the Two-Year Employment Duration for Meat Processors Pilot – and all measures are within the purview of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. The proposal would meet the Ministers’ priority to develop a short-term strategy to address the food and beverage manufacturing sectors labour needs.
EXPAND THE TWO-YEAR EMPLOYMENT DURATION FOR MEAT PROCESSORS AND THE AGRI-FOOD IMMIGRATION PILOTS
The Two-year Employment Duration for Meat Processors Pilot (the LMIA Pilot) launched in December 2019, allows employers to hire low-wage temporary foreign workers for up to 2 years on the same Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The LMIA Pilot was developed to support a temporary foreign worker employee’s application for permanent residence and was tied to the Agri-food Immigration Pilot. We believe these pilots could be expanded for a fixed term to address the immediate labour challenges facing the broader food and beverage manufacturing sector.
The food and beverage manufacturing sector is recommending that, on an immediate basis, the Pilots be extended and expanded as follows:
Under both the LMIA Pilot and the Agri-food Immigration Pilot
- Eligibility be expanded to include North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) 311 (Food Manufacturing ) and NAICS 3121 (Beverage Manufacturing).
- Eligibility be expanded to include all relevant National Occupational Classification (NOC) codes used by food and beverage manufacturers.
- Processing times be aligned with the service standards for the Global Talent Stream and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.
- The amended Pilots both be extended through to the end of 2023.
Under the LMIA Pilot:
- The Pilot continue to allow a 2-year LMIA, with access expanded to include temporary and/or seasonal jobs.
- The TFW cap be increased to 30%.
- Job advertising requirements, currently four consecutive weeks in the three months prior to submitting an LMIA, be waived under the LMIA Pilot (expanding the waiver recently announced for Quebec).
Under the Agri -food Immigration Pilot:
- The limit on the number of applications permitted under the Agri-food Immigration Pilot be removed.
- To meet education requirements [“Education at high school level or greater (Canadian equivalency)”] applicants be permitted to submit copies rather than original documents and/or be able to demonstrate 2 years of Canadian experience.
In addition to expanding the Pilot, we also recommend examining opportunities to prioritize and/or streamline processing of applications within both ESDC and IRCC.