Alberta labour group slams fast-tracking of foreign workers

Easing restrictions makes foreign workers employers' first choice not last resort, says AFL

An Alberta labour group is slamming an agreement making it easier for Alberta companies to hire skilled foreign tradespeople.

Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is easing foreign-worker restrictions.Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is easing foreign-worker restrictions. (CBC)

"Under this program, employers don't have to show that they've made any attempts to fill these jobs with Canadians first," said Nancy Furlong, with the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"Kenney's latest move makes the Temporary Foreign Workers program an employer's first choice, not last resort," she said.

Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Monday a one-year pilot project that will reduce the paperwork needed to hire skilled workers under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program.

Instead of waiting months to get to work, it will now take only 30 minutes, said Kenney

"They can immediately begin recruiting in visa exempt countries like the US, invite those folks to come up and as long as they make an application for their certification to get their ticket to work as a trades person they'll get a work permit at the airport," he said.

The province is short welders, heavy-duty mechanics, ironworkers, millwrights, carpenter and estimators.

But the AFL said the project will leave even fewer safeguards against abuses such as poor working conditions and unscrupulous recruiters charging illegal fees.

"Foreign workers are supposed to receive comparable wages and working conditions as Canadians, but there are no real mechanisms in place to ensure this happens," said Furlong. "Once the foreign workers are in the province, they work at the whim of their employer."

The AFL believes the Temporary Foreign Workers Program should be scrapped in favour of an immigration policy that brings in new Canadians to address labour shortages.

"This is not about a labour shortage, it's a low-wage strategy," said Furlong. "This is mostly designed to give companies access to a big pool of non-union construction labour that is desperate for work."

Kenney said he will protect Canadian workers by ending the pilot project early if the job market changes and unemployment rises.

CBC News, July 17 2012

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