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The Pilot Project for Occupations Requiring Lower Levels of Formal Training (NOC C and D)
The Pilot Project represents the Canadian government’s effort to expand labor market flexibility to sectors outside of agriculture; though in recent years it has become more common for food production firms to utilize it (click here for a statistical analysis). A business-initiated program, the Pilot Project is not founded on MOUs, but on employer demand for labor. Government protections are harder to secure, as there are no requirements that diplomatic representatives be situated near the workers, nor that any consular inspections of their treatment be made.
The work permit extends 24 months, and subsequent applications for admission into the pilot project “cannot be refused solely because a TFW: has already worked in Canada for 24 months; or has not returned home for a minimum period of four months.”19 This change, which took effect in May 2009, helps to reduce forced rotation, as a worker is able to “extend” their permit by simply reapplying.
In 2002, the government responded to perceived labor shortages in a number of economic sectors with the Low Skill Pilot Project. Five years later, the program’s name was changed to The Pilot Project for Occupations Requiring Lower Levels of Formal Training (National Occupational Certification (NOC) C and D) (Pilot Project), and the work permit length it issued extended to 24 months.20 “NOC C and D” refer to the level of education and experience the employee cannot exceed, in this case a high school diploma or two years of occupation-specific training.21
Unlike SAWP, the PP does not have standardized contracts,22 is not predicated on inter-governmental MOUs, does not require the presence of representatives from sending countries (or even their knowledge that their nationals are abroad), and is not restricted to agricultural occupations—though the number of employees in the agricultural sector is increasing.23 Indeed, while the total number of temporary workers in various occupations under the TFWP has fluctuated since 2005, the number in agriculture (harvesting laborers and general farm workers) has increased steadily. The following chart illustrates this trend, contrasting the annual statistics for the number of harvesting laborers and general farm workers with other NOC C and D (particularly D) temporary workers on the Pilot Project.
Figure 2 (No. of workers; excluding workers on the Live-in Caregiver Program)24
Another revealing way to represent the increasing popularity of the PP to hire farm labor is to note its ranking in the top occupational groups list. Particularly between 2008 and 2009, the number of NOC D laborers working on farms outranked the number of NOC D laborers in other positions.
Figure 3 (Rankings; excluding workers on the Live-in Caregiver Program)25
As Figure 3 shows, NOC D agricultural workers’ rank among occupations recruited for the PP has more or less steadily increased: in 2005, for example, harvesting laborers ranked 12 out of 20, and in 2009 they ranked 3.
According to the model contract the PP requires, employers are required to pay any recruitment fees incurred by their new employees during the pre-employment process.26 This, however, can only be provincially enforced. Many provinces have either prohibited particular recruitment agencies, have established registration systems for legitimate agencies, or have entered into bilateral MOU with sending countries (though at this point MOUs are limited to the Philippines).27
Workers employed under the provisions of the Pilot Project are no longer required to leave at the termination of their contract. Permit applications can no longer be refused “solely because a temporary foreign worker has already worked in Canada for 24 months; or has not returned home for a minimum period of four months.”28 This change came into force in May 2009, so how it will affect migrant workers in Canada is not yet clear.