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Are Canadian heli pilots being denied jobs by foreign workers?

May 1, 2014, Ottawa - Canadian helicopter pilots say they're being denied jobs in favour of cheaper temporary foreign workers as alarm bells grow ever louder about the integrity of the embattled federal program.


May 1, 2014
By The Canadian Press

"The saddest and most outrageous part is that this will slowly kill
the industry," Bill Wadsworth, a helicopter pilot in Mayne Island, B.C.,
with 25 years experience, said in an interview Wednesday.

Wadsworth
said he recently applied for several jobs at B.C. companies that he
learned had subsequently sought temporary foreign workers. In each case,
he was told there were no openings.

He also said he frequently
sees job postings for pilots that offer hourly rates well below the
industry standard, a practice he said drives down wages.

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"They're
leveraging the foreign workers against the Canadian pilots, essentially
threatening Canadians by saying: 'We're paying these guys so little and
we're only going to pay you 10 dollars an hour more. So you either go
with the flow here or we're hiring TFWs and you're out of work.'"

The
situation provides employers with no incentives to bring along rookie
Canadian pilots by providing training, Wadsworth added — a state of
affairs that he warned could sound the death knell for the industry.

Kirsten
Brazier, a helicopter and fixed-wing pilot in Vancouver, said employers
are now telling pilots across the country that they are under-qualified
in order to justify hiring cheaper temporary foreign workers.

"What the federal government is doing is enabling these operators to bamboozle the system," Brazier said.

"The
worst damage to our industry is that they're using the program as a
justification to disqualify pilots that are perfectly capable of doing
the job."

Dozens of applications for temporary foreign workers,
filed by private helicopter operators from across Canada and examined by
The Canadian Press, claim the companies are unable to find domestic
candidates with the necessary skills.

One company in Niagara
Falls, Ont., that was looking last year to hire a seasonal pilot, simply
typed "expertise" when asked on the government form why it hadn't
sought a Canadian candidate. No other explanation was provided.

Gilles
Hudicourt, a longtime Air Transat pilot who's spent years crusading
against the temporary foreign worker program in the aviation sector,
accuses federal officials of making no effort determine whether
employers have sincerely tried to find Canadian workers.

"They always give shady reasons for needing TFWs; it's never valid, and no one ever checks it out," Hudicourt said.

"You
have to pity the poor helicopter pilot in Canada. They are often
unemployed and rely on these same operators who are hiring these
temporary foreign workers for a job. Many of them are afraid to speak
out, because they're going to be blacklisted and never get a job."

Greg
Holbrooke, an official at the Canadian Federal Pilots Association, said
he's unaware of a single instance in which a temporary foreign worker
has been hired in Canada as a pilot at a wage that is higher than a
Canadian's.

"In every case I'm aware of, when they bring in foreign workers to work as pilots, they pay them less money," Holbrooke said.


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