New research shows just how bad the fast-track was,
and why it shouldn’t be brought back
EDMONTON – Albertans should be wary of the Harper government’s plan to revive the so-called Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (ALMO) process, a discredited fast-track scheme that made it possible for employers to bring Temporary Foreign Workers into the country with little justification or oversight, says the president of Alberta’s largest labour organization.
“Canadians will remember the ALMO,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “They will remember that it was misused. They will remember why it had to be shut down amid scandal in April and that the government has not conducted the investigation that it promised.”
In April, the Alberta Federation of Labour obtained and released a list of more than 4,800 employers that had accessed the ALMO program, which was supposed to be reserved for high-skilled, high-wage employers. Of these, more than half were low-wage businesses like gas stations, convenience stores and fast-food restaurants.
In a report published today, the Alberta Federation of Labour examines approved applications made by 10 randomly selected employers in Alberta, and one employer in Newfoundland. The application documentation, obtained by the Federation through an Access to Information request, shows the approval process was a joke and suggests that the ALMO was used to displace Canadian workers and drive down wages.
“These applications would be laughable if this program wasn’t such a tragedy for workers,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “We called for a thorough investigation of Harper’s fast-food fast-track. These documents show why he’s been trying to sweep it under the rug. Canadians should be appalled that this discredited program may be re-introduced without any public accounting of what went wrong with it in the first place.”
Researchers found that four of the 11 employers examined were paying below the market rate, and that low-wage, low-skill employers were accessing the fast-track stream for high-skill workers by categorizing them as “managers.”
“One of the employers we looked at – a McDonalds in Edmonton – had been approved to employ 20 ‘food service supervisors’ for one restaurant,” McGowan said. “And yet they wanted to pay these so-called managers $11.75/hour, below the going rate of $13.00. It’s beyond ridicule.”
Other applications included an application for 12 “Crew Trainer” positions at a set of three McDonalds in Newfoundland. The approved wage was $11.20/hour, less than the prevailing regional wage of $11.75. Bennett Restaurant Inc.’s CEO is Cathy Bennett, a provincial Liberal Leadership contender.
“About half of the businesses that accessed this fast-track stream were low-skilled employers,” McGowan said. “If the results of our close examination of these 11 employers are representative of all 2,400 low-skilled ALMO approvals, then we’re talking about more than 1,700 employers granted the right to pay foreign workers less than the regional average wage. This can only be described as a means to drive down wages.”
Although the ALMO program was suspended amid scandal in April, Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney recently announced that the government was looking to revive the troubled program. In addition, the government has opened up new avenues for employers to circumvent attempts to hire locally before bringing in disenfranchised guest workers.
“When the ALMO stream was suspended in April, the Harper Government had a chance to investigate how it had gone wrong, find out why the wrong employers were accessing it, and to do the right thing by Canadian Workers. They didn’t,” McGowan said.-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org