A once convenient version of history stated that a century ago, Henry Ford paid daily wages of $5, double the usual, so workers could afford the vehicles they made. According to myth, Ford thereby helped develop the middle class.
In truth, Henry Ford was the opposite of an altruist. He was forced to pay higher wages because miserable factory conditions caused intolerable staff turnover. The Michigan Historical Center reports:
In 1913, Ford hired more than 52,000 men to keep a workforce of only 14,000.
Without meaningful attachments to jobs, Ford employees failed to perform and often failed to attend. Like chains with broken links, assembly lines don’t even work poorly with nonfunctioning stations. In addition to ruinous costs of downtime, Ford faced expenses for recruiting and training new staff, many of whom would vanish without contributing to production.
Ford responded by paying more than competing employers and immediately had a workforce that followed assigned schedules and worked with diligence and dedication. Ford sold cars into a marketplace where demand responded to price and he understood that, in turn, the availability of good workers was affected by the price he paid them.
In Canada, many businesses don’t want to pay more, they prefer to import economic slaves from an unlimited third world supply. In return for what Canadians consider modest wages, poor labourers will cope with separation from family, crowded and shoddy living conditions, onerous imposts, unpaid overtime and the risk of being returned to the homeland for even slight intransigence.
An unskilled worker could make $1,000 annually in parts of the Philippines, working long hours, six days a week. The possibility of earning 15 times or more in Canada appeals, even if the worker spends more than half on living, travel and employment expenses. The motivations of employers and foreign workers is understandable; both are trying to improve their own economic situations. Questions to be answered are whether or not the Temporary Foreign Worker Program makes Canada better off and if government policy should prioritize higher business profits ahead of better wages. Analysis shows the program lessens upward pressure on unskilled wages, which are often earned by Canadians living in or near poverty.
Clearly, the HarperCons come down on the side of higher profits. According to a government statement, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program:
allows eligible foreign workers to work in Canada for an authorized period of time if employers can demonstrate that they are unable to find suitable Canadians/permanent residents to fill the jobs and that the entry of these workers will not have a negative impact on the Canadian labour market.
That might seem reasonable but, in fact, the government spends far more advertising its Economic Action Plan than it spends administering and enforcing rules of the TFWP. As a result, employers learned that abusing the system was profitable and without consequence.
Among the worst offenders was Denny’s Restaurants of BC, which was forced to make a 7-figure settlement with cooks and servers brought from the Phillipines under TFWP and subsequently abused:
The BC Supreme Court approved the settlement because Denny’s failed to honour its contracts with the workers. This included offering them less than a full week of work, not paying overtime pay and failing to reimburse them for agency fees and airfare to Canada.
The federal government chose not to enforce rules that allowed more than 100,000 TFW’s in western Canada because, as McDonald’s Canada CEO John Betts said, all criticism of the staffing arrangement is “bullshit” but “the Minister gets it.” Betts, an American, joined McDonald’s in New York 44 years ago and came to Canada in 2008. His words suggest he’s worried about PR but not about government eliminating a program that contributes to profitability.
Maybe it’s because McDonald’s is one of Canada’s largest oil consumers and the Harper government has blind dedication to subsidizing and supporting the oil industry. Oh, wait. Wrong Oil. Never mind.
Gas, already above $1.50 a litre in some Vancouver stations, is expected to continue rising because we don’t have domestic supply to cover demand and probably never will. Higher prices are a classic response to inadequate supply, except for undeserving wage-earners at the lowest rung of the income ladder.
I said above that Henry Ford had no selfless concern for the well-being of others. Michigan Historical Center recounts:
The $5-a-day rate was about half pay and half bonus. The bonus came with character requirements and was enforced by the Socialization Organization. This was a committee that would visit the employees’ homes to ensure that they were doing things the “American way.”
They were supposed to avoid social ills such as gambling and drinking. They were to learn English, and many (primarily the recent immigrants) had to attend classes to become “Americanized.” Women were not eligible for the bonus unless they were single and supporting the family.