04/29/2014 09:08 EDT | Updated 06/29/2014 05:59 EDT

Labrador business feels penalized by foreign worker plan woes

A couple who run a hotel and restaurant in Labrador say they're paying the price for others' wrongdoing, and warn they may not be able to operate if they cannot soon hire foreign workers.

The federal government imposed a moratorium on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for the food service industry last week, in the wake of allegations that some workers were being abused through the program.

Lloyd and Judy Hillier operate the Hotel North chain from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, as well as the local Jungle Jim's restaurant franchise, and say they have a chronic shortage of workers.

"We're going to have to shut, start shutting stuff down and then we'll be laying off not only foreign workers, Canadians as well, Mr. Harper," Lloyd Hillier told CBC News.

"So [it is] time for you to open up your eyes and have a look at what's going on here."

With construction of the nearby Muskrat Falls hydroelectric megaproject in full swing, businesses are having trouble finding local workers.

'Not one applicant local'

Judy Hillier said the company has done everything it can to recruit locally, to no avail.

"You cannot hire people here in Goose Bay right now," she said in an interview.

"I've been advertising in the local paper, I even put it in the St John's paper. What I'm receiving is applicants [which are all] foreign workers. Nothing local. Not one applicant local."

At the Jungle Jim's restaurant, there are far too few cooks in the kitchen, with existing staff working extra hours just to manage customer orders.

"It's very tough for us," said cook Murali Thiruvealluvean. "[There is] more workload for us, we have to work long hours, so we get tired because of this."

The Hilliers say they pay the foreign workers they've hired the same wages and benefits as local hires.

"We treat people like people," he said, adding his company is feeling the sting for problems that happened far away.

"We may have a few idiots running businesses and these idiots need to be put away, but there's more good ones than there [are] bad ones."