(Adds background on foreign worker issues, government actions,
quote from employment minister spokeswoman; paragraphs 3-7,
By Julie Gordon
VANCOUVER, April 23 The Canadian unit of
McDonald's Corp has suspended all of its applications
under the country's temporary foreign worker program as its
undergoes a third-party audit on its use, the restaurant chain
said on Wednesday.
The move comes after the fast-food giant was criticized in
media reports in recent weeks about its use of the Canadian
government plan, which allows companies to bring in foreign
workers when there are no local residents available.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported this month
that a franchise owner in Victoria, British Columbia, was
bringing in foreign workers for three locations while at the
same time turning away seemingly qualified Canadians seeking
jobs and cutting local staffers' hours.
That was followed by similar media reports involving other
McDonald's restaurants in Western Canada, prompting the federal
government to launch a probe of the fast-food chain's use of the
The company has cut ties with the Victoria franchise-owner,
but has defended its broader use of the program, noting that it
uses the temporary foreign worker program only as a "last
resort" in markets where there are severe labor shortages.
"Of our more than 85,000 employees nationwide, temporary
foreign workers account for approximately 4 percent of our
workforce," the company said in a statement.
While McDonald's has frozen all applications during its
review, the company said, it continues to support the program
and expects to continue participating in it.
The company said the freeze will not affect the temporary
foreign workers it employs who already have work permits.
McDonald's is not the only company to face a backlash over
its use of the controversial program.
The Royal Bank of Canada was heavily criticized last
year following a CBC report that U.S. outsourcing firm iGate
used temporary foreign worker visas as it worked to
replace a few dozen staff at the bank's Toronto investor
The bank's chief executive later apologized to employees
said it would offer them jobs elsewhere in the bank.
"Our government will not tolerate any abuse of the temporary
foreign worker program. Our message to employers is clear and
unequivocal - Canadians must always be first in line for
available jobs," said Alexandra Fortier, spokeswoman for
Canada's employment minister, Jason Kenney.
Canada blacklisted three Victoria McDonald's locations in
early April after investigations related to the CBC report,
suspending their ability to employ temporary foreign workers.
Four non-related restaurants in eastern Canada were also
(Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson, Meredith Mazzilli and Mohammad