April 6, 2021
Dave WrightLife would be so easy if only everything was black and white. But Permacon, Unilock and Techo-Bloc will show you many shades of grey. E.L James says there are 50 shades. Google tells me the RGB colour model can show 256 shades and Forbes magazine says the human eye can distinguish 500 shades.  

As business owners, we are often put in situations where we choose to bend the rules to get a job done in order to please a client. The list of “grey-area” decisions is endless: putting a two-yard salter on the back of a ¾ ton truck; pulling a mid-sized skid steer behind a truck without an A license; putting one more bucket of fill on the truck to save an extra trip back to the job site; taking a deposit in cash; using a little Roundup. Cue the sound of a can opening… no, that wasn’t a can of whoop-ass, that was a can of worms.

With the labour issues we are experiencing, many company owners are looking to temporary help agencies to source labourers when we are at our busiest. This practice is happening across many industries, not just the landscape profession. These labourers are skilled, hardworking, reasonably cost effective and very pleasant to work with. If a worker does not meet expectations, a replacement is a phone call away. If you have a big job where you need an extra dozen guys to get the sod laid, you just make a quick call. No advertising, no endless review of mediocre resumes or interviews where the applicant does not show up. The perfect solution.

Not quite. I compare the use of the temp workers to using drugs. It may seem like a good idea in the moment, but the many, many shades of grey through the process hardly makes it worth it. While some temp agencies are supplying the typical Canadian labourer, many are delivering foreign workers with incomplete documentation. These workers are part of the approximately 160 million migrants worldwide that fill labour positions and send a portion of their earnings back to their families in their home countries to give them a better life.  

There are many drawbacks to this practice of using third-party labour suppliers. It becomes a crutch that is easy to use, but dulls the skill required to hire good talent. It kills the “bench” we should all have of future potential employees. If we stop nurturing the bench, then we lose them. The ease of picking up the phone and getting more workers has increased the demand, which has increased the supply of undocumented workers. The Canadian Border Protection Service (CBPS) has visited several companies around the province as they seek to confirm what they already know about the third-party labour suppliers. The Ontario Ministry of Labour and various municipal agencies are all involved. The law says that if you knowingly employ an undocumented worker, you could be subject to fines and possible jail time.  

But here is where the grey comes in: we shouldn’t be overlooking the risks involved just because the federal government hasn’t pursued legal action. It has an immigration plan that set goals of well over 400,000 new Canadians per year through 2023. They have a mandate to simplify the process for temporary workers to become permanent residents. These are all steps in the right direction for the trades. LO and CNLA hosted webinars in March on the proper steps to be used when working with a labour supplier. My caution to you is to not get addicted to the ease of acquiring temporary foreign labour. Build your positive company culture and the employees will follow.
Dave Wright
LO President