Alberta Entrenching Exploitation of Foreign Workers

The Alberta Federation of Labour today released Entrenching Exploitation, the second report of its Temporary Foreign Worker Advocate. The report provides an update on the living and working conditions of temporary foreign workers in Alberta. It also evaluates government responses to problems in the program and examines the state of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) during the economic downturn.

"The working and living conditions of temporary foreign workers in Alberta has not improved at all in the past couple of years," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "We continue to exploit these men and women with little regard to their rights."

"Even worse is that as the foreign worker program continues to expand, it is clear we are entrenching this exploitation for the long term."

The central conclusion of the report is that Canada, with Alberta at the head of the pack, is transforming the TFWP into a permanent migrant worker program. "Canada's so-called temporary solution to labour shortages is rapidly becoming a permanent part of our labour market," says TFW Advocate Yessy Byl. "We are modeling our guest worker program after Europe - who have created a permanent underclass of foreign workers with little access to citizenship or full labour rights."

The Report finds that since the downturn began many high-skilled foreign workers have been laid off and sent home, but that employers in the restaurant, hospitality and service industries continue to import new foreign workers. "The program, originally designed as a program for scientists, professors and engineers, is quickly becoming a haven for employers to bring in low-skilled workers as hotel housekeepers, fast food cooks and retail clerks," says Byl.

The Report offers 21 recommendations at improving conditions for foreign workers. The most important recommendations call for an end to the program in its current form and to allow temporary foreign workers currently in the country to receive permanent residency status, if they choose.

Other recommendations call for tighter restrictions on employers wanting to use the program, better and more active enforcement of employment rights, and a more limited role for the TFWP.

"This report informs the public of a serious policy shift that is occurring without public debate and without consideration of its impact on Canada and our labour market," McGowan concludes.


For more information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL President (780) 483-3021 (office) (780) 218-9888 (cell)

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