Dear Mr. Kenney: Is $55K Really a ‘Low Wage?’
DIEPPE, N.B -- The trucking industry employs close to 30,000 people in Atlantic Canada but can’t attract qualified local drivers.
Trucking companies rely on programs such as Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW).
Jason Kenney (Canada's Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism) recently announced some major changes to this program, and the organization that represents truckers in The Maritimes—The Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association (APTA)—has come out swinging in defence of the program.
Kenney’s changes, the APTA charges, will:
* Harm trucking companies;
* Damage the Maritimes economy;
* Hurt local taxpayers;
* Worsen the driver shortage by sending the remaining qualified drivers in the area to other parts of the country.
* Finally, the APTA says, it’s clear the Federal Government doesn’t realize that in the Maritimes, long-haul truck driving, with an average wage of $55,000 a year, is anything but a low-paid occupation.
Jean-Marc Picard, APTA Executive Director, elaborated: “If you are classified in a high-wage occupation, these changes don’t apply in most cases. Unfortunately, the truck driver is categorized as a low-wage occupation; therefore we are obliged by all these changes.
“Even though we pay our long-haul drivers above the Provincial medians, we are lumped with all types of truck drivers”.
“There are many different types of truck drivers and salaries can fluctuate but long-haul commercial truck drivers average $55,000 and up annually.
“The government should separate us from the low-skill group and recognize that we pay more than the provincial medians.
“Trucking companies are faced with a huge dilemma now. Not only can’t they get applications processed for TFW, they will lose the ones they have which means no driver to driver and a $200,000 truck sitting around in your yard that you have to pay for”.
Picard said the National Occupational Code for the Tractor Trailer Drivers must change in order to get them out of the unskilled category.
“We can’t haul goods if we don’t have drivers; therefore, carriers will have to park trucks and refuse contracts. This will have a trickledown effect to our overall economy and consumers will pay more for goods. Not really what Atlantic Canada needs right now”.
“We, as an industry, are investing thousands of dollars every year to recruit Canadians and to train them, but there are just not enough qualified drivers to fill the demand so we rely on temporary foreign workers.
“Any company will tell you they would rather hire locally then outside of Canada. Companies pay up to $10,000 to bring in a Temporary Foreign Worker, train them and put them on the road. That’s a pretty big investment for someone you don’t know and have no idea if they’re going to work out.
“Minister Kenney obviously doesn’t realize the driver shortage in our industry and hasn’t considered many factors when he made this decision. This will have long-term impacts to our industry in Atlantic Canada and to our overall economy. We understand what he is trying to do, to put Canadians to work but this is extreme and will have a damaging impact for our industry.”