From ‘Canadians First’ to ‘Workers Unite’: Evolving Union Narratives of Migrant Workers

Foster, Jason (2014) From ‘Canadians First’ to ‘Workers Unite’: Evolving Union Narratives of Migrant Workers. Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations, 69 (2). pp. 241-265. ISSN 0034-379X

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Federal government policy changes in the early 2000s led to the rapid expansion of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program by increasing the number of eligible occupations. Before the expansion few trade unions in Canada had interaction with TFWs, but with the new rules, and the high profile political debate that ensued, unions were forced to confront the issue of migrant workers directly for the first time. Using narrative analysis, the paper examines media statements from union officials between 2006 to 2012 to track the narratives constructed by unions regarding TFWs. It finds three temporally sequential narrative arcs: 1-prioritizing of Canadian workers’ interests and portrayal of TFWs as employer pawns; 2-TFWs as vulnerable workers needing union advocacy for their employment and human rights; and 3-post-economic crisis conflicted efforts to integrate Canadian and TFW interests. The changing narratives reflect evolving union reaction to the issue of growing use of TFWs, as well as interaction with external political and economic contexts shaping the issue.

Item Type: Article
Item ID: 14062
Keywords: Temporary foreign workers, English Canada, union reaction, racism, narrative analysis
Department(s): Divisions > On the Move Partnership
Date: 13 May 2014
Date Type: Publication
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