Oil-sands workers to bear brunt of wage cuts, reveals AFL analysis of Temporary Foreign Worker Program changes
Calgary – Alberta workers presented a torn-up paycheque to federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's Calgary office today to protest the way his Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) Program is ripping off working people.
"Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that allow employers to pay foreign workers 15 per cent less than the prevailing wage in the area are specifically designed to drive down wages for all workers – especially workers in the oil sands," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour which represents 145,000 workers. "We are presenting this torn paycheque to symbolize Kenney's rip-off of Albertans."
"The Conservative changes are a gift to employers, especially non-union construction companies operating in the oil sands, but it will hit Alberta families straight in the pocketbook and be reflected in their paycheques," says McGowan. To support his point, McGowan released a technical background document on temporary foreign workers today. The analysis shows the policy is explicitly aimed at taking down high-wage, high-skilled trades occupations in Alberta.
"Harper's new rules let non-union construction firms bring in temporary foreign workers by the thousands and pay them 15 per cent less than the going rate in the construction trades," says McGowan.
The AFL analysis shows the TFW program "is being used as a hammer to beat unionized construction workers out of oil-sands construction jobs," says McGowan.
"The Harper government is giving advantage to their friends in the non-union construction sector, such as Merit Contractors," says McGowan.
Oil-sands construction companies and low-wage lobby groups including the Canadian Federation of Independent Business have been pushing for an expanded TFW program to address a shortage of workers in select high-skilled occupations, alleging labour costs are what is driving overall oil-sands construction costs. McGowan also released figures today showing labour costs were not responsible for cost overruns on oil-sands construction projects.
McGowan adds that the wild-west pace of development in Alberta's oil sands is squarely to blame for any inflation, any labour shortages and cost overruns in the sector.
"The wild-west stampede to the oil sands is what is really to blame here. The Harper government – and its right-wing, anti-union, Tea-Party-style friends like Merit Contractors and the Canadian Federation of Business – would have us use Alberta's construction workers as scapegoats. But the real labour shortage culprit is a breakneck pace of oil-sands development," says McGowan.
"Pacing development, and putting Alberta families' interests before oil company profits, is the conversation Stephen Harper and his friends in the non-union construction sector don't want to have," concludes McGowan.
For more information call: Gil McGowan, President @ 780-218-9888 (cell) or 780-483-3021 (office)