To be able to move some 250,000 international workers to Quebec in three years, we have set up a real labor “supply chain”. “Deliveries” of employee “stocks” are made and companies are offered “satisfaction guarantees”. At each stage of this “commodification of labor” there are gray areas conducive to abuse, underlines a university report published Thursday.
“It’s the jungle” in the international recruitment industry, summarizes Aline Lechaume, professor in the Department of Industrial Relations at Laval University.
She and her colleague Clara Guyot interviewed many companies, agencies and other organizations in Chaudière-Appalaches — one of the industrial lungs of Quebec. Their investigation sheds light on the gray areas of an industry that displaces tens of thousands of workers each year.
“Very few” companies recruit abroad themselves. They almost all delegate international hiring to intermediary agencies. And neither is interested in the behavior of the other side.
“It all falls under different authorities and it escapes control. Everyone passes the buck saying “it’s not me, it’s the other”, relates Aline Lechaume. Everything is done so that there are gray areas everywhere. In all these gray areas there is potential for abuse. »
For example, some people pay to be recruited, which is illegal. But employers don’t know that. And don’t ask questions.
“We took the big contract. We don’t know anything,” confirms a company cited anonymously in the report. “Even if it costs very, very expensive. »
Conversely, agencies pay little attention to the living conditions of their recruits once they are established in Canada. Their “services stop at the border,” indicates a Beauceron recruiter in the forty-page document. “We do not interfere in the employment relationship. »
Satisfaction guaranteed or worker delivered
“Turnkey” hiring of foreigners is gradually becoming the norm for international recruitment. The “infinite stock of labor” allows agencies to offer “satisfaction guarantees” to client companies, such as replacing staff in the event of a problem or a demanding nature.
“It’s stability that we’re going to look for. We basically buy peace,” confides one of the companies that deal with these agencies.
Peace comes at a high price. The employer pays $7,000 to $15,000 for each foreign employee, the study indicates. Companies have already entrusted Duty pay up to $20,000 per temporary worker.
This migrant trade is not free of stereotypes. For example, on the website of the Solution Recrutement international agency, we find this speech: “Always available and diligent, Filipinos are dedicated workers, who unquestionably respect authority.” Not interested in Filipinos? Then there are the Malagasy people, “people who reach out to others, they are gentle, kind and always smiling, with a very, very good attitude to work”.
These “gray areas” are not necessarily the result of bad faith, specifies Aline Lechaume. “This system works because[il alimente] generally small businesses that are not used to recruiting immigrant workers. They don’t know how to do it. »
The international recruitment agency industry is going through a period of exceptional growth. Some 150 agencies were registered in 2020, while THE Duty identified 829 at the start of 2024 based on official data.
This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.
This text was updated after publication to provide clarification.