04/07/2014 07:25 EDT | Updated 06/07/2014 05:59 EDT

Foreign worker program rules too lax: B.C. Federation of Labour

The alleged abuse of the temporary foreign worker program by a McDonald's restaurant franchisee is by no means an isolated case, says the B.C. Federation of Labour.

President Jim Sinclair says the program was designed to bring in skilled workers for short term jobs like the specialized work of boring a tunnel for the Canada Line, not flipping burgers in a fast food restaurant.

"The program is being abused by employers who don't want to pay the going rate and don't want to hire Canadians to do the job," said Sinclair.

"How can you justify bringing in temp foreign employees to a job that isn't temporary when we have 160,000 people that are unemployed and people are lined up to get those jobs," he added. "This makes no sense."

Sinclair is calling for a complete overhaul of the program, calling the rules "too lax".

The Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training says there are about 74,000 temporary foreign workers employed in the province. The majority are from Australia, the United States, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

About 39 per cent of them are young people working in B.C. as part of International Experience Canada, gaining experience on a 'working holiday', doing temporary jobs like those on ski hills. The reciprocal agreement also allows Canadian youth to work abroad.