April 25, 2013

Halifax– StudentsNS, which represents 37,471 Nova Scotia students, announced today that it is moving its accounts from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to Credit Union Atlantic (CUA), following recent revelations that an RBC contractor misused the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program to outsource IT operations and replace 45 Canadian employees. At least one replacement foreign employee was brought into Canada with a TFW visa, on the pretense that no one in Canada had the required skills.

“Students are investing more in their education than ever before often because they want to work for companies like RBC, so it’s upsetting to hear a company claim they cannot find Canadians with the skills to fill these jobs,” said Jonathan Williams, StudentsNS Executive Director. “We had been thinking about a change, but with these revelations decided to act right away.”

Williams noted that Canada has the second most highly educated workforce in the world and invests more in post-secondary than any other country except the United States and Switzerland. At the same time, American companies invest 50% more of their payroll in training than Canadian firms. “Many companies have been complaining about skill shortages, but passing the buck for training to students and the public,” said Williams.

The RBC decision is also very important to students as Statistics Canada and the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council report that unemployment amongst Maritime students is alarmingly high. Nova Scotia’s student unemployment rate is 17%, whereas the Canadian student average is 14%. Unemployment among students is also growing twice as fast in Nova Scotia (by over 5% vs. 2.7% nationally from 2007-2011). Governments are making some efforts to address this problem, but must have private sector cooperation.

“When youth unemployment and underemployment rates are so high, we cannot ignore practices that undermine the entry-level labour market,” said StudentsNS Chair, Kyle Power. “The private sector has a big role to play in overcoming our employment challenges and while of course RBC is not the only company using these kinds of practices, we want to be clear that this is the wrong way to do business.”

By banking with the CUA, StudentsNS is confident that its funds will help strengthen economic development in Nova Scotia. The CUA is committed to democratic governance structures that include youth board members and supports local community organizations. “Credit Union Atlantic has shown sustained commitment to local economic and social development”, said Williams. “We encourage others to follow our lead and send a message about the importance of employing young Canadians.”

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