Death of 15-year old Worker in Drumheller Tragic Reminder of Alberta’s Unsafe Work Laws

Alberta remains one of the most dangerous places in Canada to work, especially for young workers: AFL


 Edmonton – The Alberta Federation of Labour is responding to Saturday’s death of a 15-year-old worker.

Alberta’s child, youth, and adolescent labour laws are among the worst in Canada, says the AFL. The province had a chance to toughen up those standards in a recent Employment Standards review, but nothing came of it.

“Alberta’s child labour laws are among the most lax in Canada,” says Siobhan Vipond, AFL Secretary Treasurer. “The AFL has repeatedly made recommendations to improve working conditions and safety standards, specifically for young workers. This weekend’s tragic news is yet another reminder that much more needs to be done to keep Albertans safe at work.”

“Just a few months ago, Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk launched a review of Alberta’s workplace laws. But the first item up for review was a question about expanding child labour,” says Vipond. “Instead of rushing more young workers onto potentially unsafe work sites, we need to keep young workers safe. Today, Alberta is one of the most unsafe places for young people to work.”

The AFL’s submission on April 11, 2014 to the Employment Standards contained several pages of recommendations on young workers.

 "Alberta needs targeted inspections of workplaces that employ 15-17 year olds, especially in construction and other comparatively dangerous occupations,” says Vipond. “The AFL made urgent recommendations earlier this year, and this past weekend we are sadly reminded why these changes are so desperately needed in Alberta.”

 A recent survey showed 49.7% of 797 adolescents surveyed had experienced at least one workplace injury in the previous year.

For 15-17 year olds, the research has shown young, minor workers are particularly vulnerable to abuses in the workplace, such as illegal deductions, unsafe work, handling of hazardous materials, and sexual harassment.

For that reason, the AFL recommended a program of targeted inspections and a special, mandated health and safety training programme for employers who hire 15-17 year old Albertans. Alberta must also review whether some industrial activities or occupations are prohibited for adolescents, particularly in forklift operations and construction work.



Brad Lafortune, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.901.1177 (cell)
or via e-mail


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2014 Fact Check: P3 Model Bad for Alberta Taxpayers

For Immediate Release
Friday, July 18, 2014


P3 Model Bad for Alberta Taxpayers

Lukaszuk’s Appointed P3 Board Idea a ‘Recipe for Corruption’

Edmonton - PC leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk’s proposal to create a “secretariat” that would oversee negotiations of Private-Public Partnerships (P3s) ignores the reality that P3s cost more, deliver less, and could open the door to corruption. 

In comments made to the Edmonton Journal, the former deputy premier admitted that P3 deals concerned him, and that he saw the potential for Albertans to be “taken for a ride.” His proposed solution is to create a special cabinet-appointed board to oversee Private-Public Partnerships, and to negotiate on behalf of the province. 

Read the Full Fact Sheet here!

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2014 Fact Check: Candidates for Premier Look to Open TFW Floodgates

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Candidates for Premier Look to Open TFW Floodgates

PC Leadership contenders all buy into bogus labour shortage claims

Edmonton – Ric McIver is using bogus claims of a provincial labour shortage as a scare tactic in the race to become Alberta’s new premier.

Neither of his rivals, Jim Prentice nor Thomas Lukaszuk, has refuted the premise of his argument that the province needs more control over the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to give employers more access to cheap, disposable workers.

Read the full Fact Check here!

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2014 Fact Check: Wages Stagnate For Alberta’s Least-Paid Workers

PC Leadership candidate misinformed about how much employers pay

Edmonton – Tory Leadership Hopeful Thomas Lukaszuk is incorrect in his assertion that employers are offering higher wages to attract workers.

At a Calgary Stampede pancake breakfast on Monday, the former Deputy Premier said: “We do have a bona fide shortage of workers and in certain parts of the province, like Bonnyville, Cold Lake, Fort McMurray, Hinton, and Edson. No matter how much employers pay, they can’t attract workers to entry-level positions.” This quote was reported on Global News (

Read the full Fact Check here!

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Low-wage employers in Alberta are blowing smoke when they whine about labour shortages

Examination of Alberta jobs data shows that labour shortage claims from groups like CFIB are nothing but hot air


Edmonton – The federal government should tell low-wage employers and the Alberta government to “quit their whining” about recent changes to the controversial Temporary Foreign Worker program, said AFL president Gil McGowan as he released a new study showing that there is no economy-wide labour shortage in Alberta.


The study, entitled “Truth or Scare: Are Claims of a Labour Shortage in Alberta Based on Evidence?” uses empirical, Alberta-specific jobs data to examine the issue — as opposed to the kind of studies released by the CFIB, which rely on surveys of employers who have an incentive to overstate the difficultly they’re having filling positions.


“The labour shortage is basically a myth created by employers who want to keep wages low in the face of economic conditions which suggest they should be going up,” McGowan said. “It’s a myth that’s been used to promote policies like the TFW program that are bad for Canadians.”


Using a test for labour shortage developed by the Federal government’s own economists, the AFL study found that that there is no labour shortage in most sectors of the Alberta economy, including lower-skill, lower-wage sectors like retail, accommodation and food services.


“Now that the federal government has finally put some limits on the ability of low-wage employers to use the TFW program to drive down wages, groups like the CFIB are whining and trying to resurrect the labour-shortage boogeyman,” McGowan said. “This report exposes these complaints for what they really are: empty rhetoric from a group of self-interested whiners who want to short-circuit the healthy operation of the Canadian labour market.”


Experts agree that there is a three-part test to see if a labour shortage really exists. First, employment levels have to go up significantly. Second, unemployment rates have to go down significantly. And third, wages have to go up significantly. By these measures, with the notable exception of a very small number of occupations related to the energy sector, there is no labour shortage in Alberta.


According to Employment Minister Jason Kenney, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in Alberta has increased by 14 per cent, and overall wages have increased 31 per cent since 2006. But in Alberta’s food services industry, wages have only increased eight per cent over the same period.


“Employers can’t say Canadians are unwilling to fill the jobs on offer until they’ve actually increased wages in keeping with changing market conditions,” McGowan said “What our study shows is that Alberta’s labour market is booming – but we’re not dealing with any economy-wide shortages.”


Although the AFL’s report is the first comprehensive look at available data, this is not the first time that the labour shortage has been shown to be fake. Over the past year, the Parliamentary Budget Office, former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, the Institute for Research on Public Policy, the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the University of Alberta Economics Department and Fraser Institute Fellow Herb Emery have all released reports that debunk the labour shortage myth.


Key findings in the report:

• Retail Trade exhibits neither a shortage of workers nor rising wages.

• From 2010 to 2013, wages in wholesale trade fell

• From 2010 to 2013, wages in accommodation and food services stagnated

• Between 2007 and 2011, 23,100 Albertans enrolled in an apprenticeship program, but only 9,066 completed those programs

• The only occupational categories that saw rapidly rising wages as a result of shortages were in limited energy-related sub-categories.

• Manufacturing and Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services saw wages increase a third and a quarter below average.


Link:  “Truth or Scare”







Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail



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Alberta construction jobs still being given to TFWs at less than half the going rate

“Smoke and mirrors” cleanup of the TFW program allowing good jobs to disappear like magic


Edmonton – Good Canadian jobs continue to vanish into thin air as if by magic due to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Alberta’s largest labour organization released evidence today showing TFW welders can be paid less than half the going rate. This is a clear example of employers abusing the system, despite the Harper government’s claims of cracking down on the TFW program.

A Kijiji ad, posted by a recruiter on June 27, 2014, suggests approvals were granted to employers to fill jobs as Welders and Related Machine Operators (NOC 7265) in Alberta and Saskatchewan at wages of $13 to $20 per hour. At the low end, this is less than half the going rate for Canadian welders.

The average starting wage for a welder in Alberta is $28.49; the average overall wage is $33.79.

“It’s starting to look like Jason Kenney’s cleanup of the TFW program was smoke and mirrors,” Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan said. “While he was promising a crackdown, his department issued Labour Market Opinions for TFWs to work as welders and be paid less than half the wage being paid to Canadians.”

The Kijiji posting invites applicants to submit resumes and Skype IDs to Miles Andry of Canadian Shield Immigration. Mr. Andry does not appear to have any construction-related Human Resources experience. His LinkedIn profile lists him as a Canadian Shield recruitment specialist for the past two years and a professional magician for the past 12 years.

“These are some of the best jobs in the Alberta economy, and the Harper government has literally handed them over to a magician to make good wages disappear,” McGowan said. “All of this talk of cleaning up the program, cracking down on abuses, and making sure Canadians get first crack at jobs appears to be nothing more than sleight of hand.”

“Instead of a circus sideshow designed to trick the public, Mr. Kenney needs to get serious about cleaning up the mess he made,” McGowan said. “Mr. Kenney should wave his magic wand and cancel every LMO his department issued unlawfully, below the wages paid to Canadians for the same job”



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail


Screenshots  at July 2, 2014


Kijiji ad for Welders, where an LMO is available for between $13.00/hour and $20.00/hour

Ad is posted at:



LinkedIn Profile for Miles Andry, Canadian Shield LMO Recruitment Specialist:



Wage Profile from Government of Alberta WageInfo, for Welders and Related Machine Operators




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Truth or Scare: Are claims of a labour shortage in Alberta based on evidence

Political debate in Alberta is rife with discussions of the province’s

labour supply. Some pundits suggest that lack of labour undermines

growth, while other analysts focus on the availability of good paying

jobs. However, there has been a dearth of empirical data and

evidence-based analysis of the relationship between the availability of

workers and the supply of jobs. This paper begins to fill that gap.

Click here to read more.

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Canadians who rallied against the irresponsible expansion of TFW program under Harper Conservatives should take a victory lap

But much more work needs to be done to protect jobs and wages, especially in Alberta

The Harper government’s changes to the controversial Temporary Foreign Worker program can be divided into three categories, says the Alberta Federation of Labour: the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good

The AFL has been lobbying for a “Sunshine List” of employers who use the TFW program, so that Canadians can get a clear picture about how, where and when the program is being used by employers. Employment Minister Jason Kenney has promised to publish such a list. The list will include the names of employers using TFWs and the number of TFWs working for each employer. This is good news. The AFL hopes the list will also include information about the work that TFWs have been assigned and how much they’re being paid.

The AFL has been calling on the government to scrap the TFW program entirely, especially the low-wage stream. Kenney has refused to go that far, but he says that the number of TFWs that employers can hire will now be tied to regional unemployment rates and that caps will be placed on the number of TFWs that any one employer can hire. Specifically, employers in the low-wage service sector will only be allowed to access the TFW program if regional unemployment rates are under 6 percent. Even then, TFWs will not be allowed to make up more than 20 percent of an employers’ workforce this year, a number that will be reduced to 10 per cent next year and thereafter. These are steps in the right direction. Up until now, it has been far too easy for employers to access the TFW program. As a result, for many employers, TFWs have become a first choice for recruitment, rather than a tool of last resort. We’ll be watching to see if this changes.

The Bad

Employment Minister Kenney is, yet again, promising to “get tough” and “crack down” on employers. He’s promising more inspections and bigger fines and penalties. But there’s two problems with these promises.

First, we’ve heard it all before. To date, no employers anywhere in the country have been fined or prosecuted for abusing the program, despite ample evidence. For example, none of the thousands of employers who broke the rules for the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (ALMO) process were ever penalized. The same is true for companies like Pacer and Promec who admitted to using TFWs to displace Canadians ironworkers in Fort McMurray. Base on his dismal track record on enforcement, why should we believe the Minister this time?

Second, it’s great to hear that the Minister will hire new “integrity officers” to monitor the program. But will there be enough of them? And what powers will they be given? Right now, the government has no dedicated TFW inspectors (shocking, but true). If the government hires 30 or 40 of them to police employers with more than 300,000 TFWs, abuses won’t be identified. And if officers only respond to complaint, many abuses will be overlooked because vulnerable TFWs rarely file formal complaints.

The Ugly

Today’s “reforms” are as notable for what they don’t say as what they do. Most importantly, the new rules only put restrictions on the use of TFWs in the low-wage service sector; they ignore the concern that there a few viable pathways to citizenship for most TFWs; and they ignore the crucial issue of worker mobility altogether.

 Service vs. Construction Sectors: The greatest abuses of the TFW program have occurred in the low-wage service sector, so it makes sense to make impose tougher rules there. However, there is also mounting evidence of problems in the construction sector. Specifically, fast-track streams of the TFW program like the so-called Alberta Occupation-Specific Pilot Project have allowed employers to hire TFWs without first offering the jobs to Canadians. That’s what happened with the ironworkers displaced by TFWs in Fort McMurray. The list of occupations subject to the pilot project includes: ironworkers, pipefitters, welders and heavy duty mechanics. These are some of the best jobs in the Canadian labour market. The government MUST stop making it so easy for employers to by-pass Canadians for these lucrative jobs. Specifically, they MUST end the Alberta Occupation-Specific Pilot project and all other fast-track streams of the TFW program that cut Canadians out.

Lack of Pathways to Citizenship: One of the biggest problems with the TFW program is that it is NOT immigration. For the vast majority of TFWs, there are few, if any, viable pathways to citizenship. As a result, the TFW program has created a large and growing underclass of workers who don’t have the same rights as other worker in the Canadian labour market and who are particularly vulnerable to exploitations because they live in constant fear of being deported. The Canadian labour movement believes strongly that if we need workers from abroad, they should be brought into the country as citizens, not disposable guest workers. Building a labour market on disposal workers who are little more than indentured servants flies in the face of Canadian values – and it almost guarantees that those vulnerable workers will be used by employers to create low-wage job ghettos and drive down wages and conditions for everybody.

Worker Mobility: One of the big reasons that employers have been able to use TFWs as pawns to drive down wages is that they have been prohibited from quitting and seeking jobs with other employers. This explains why wages in Alberta’s low-wage service sector have remained flat, even as employers complain about labour shortage. One of the best ways to ensure that employers can’t abuse TFWs and use them to drive down wages is to give TFWs the right to say “take this job and shove it.” Minister Kenney ignored this obvious solution – and that greatly weakens his reform package.

 In the end, AFL president Gil McGowan, had this to say about the TFW changes unveiled today:

“Canadians who rallied against the irresponsible expansion of the TFW program under the Harper Conservatives should take a victory lap. This is a rare example of an ideological government backing down in the face of public outrage and overwhelming evidence,” says McGowan.

 “But much more work needs to be done to protect jobs and wages, especially in Alberta where many low-wage employers will still be able to use TFWs as part of their business model and where employers in construction will still be able to use fast-track streams to by-pass Canadians for lucrative jobs in areas like welding, pipe-fitting and ironwork.”

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail

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Province Pulls Plug on P3s

Government makes the right call in building 19 new schools without for-profit partners

Edmonton — Nineteen new schools in Alberta will be built through traditional financing models.

Although the schools had been previously been announced last year as Private-Public-Partnership (P3) ventures, the government did not receive any competitive bids. 

"Rather than funneling taxpayer money into corporate pockets, the Hancock Government had the courage to abandon the P3 model," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "This is encouraging.  It's a good decision for Albertans, and I hope they continue to move away from the P3 model."

Alberta Infrastructure Minister Wayne Drysdale left the door open for the use of the P3 scheme in the future, suggesting that while it hadn't made sense in this instance, they would return to it. The Alberta Federation of Labour encourages the government to abandon the P3 model permanently. 

"Schools need to be built in the way that is best for students," McGowan said. "When a private corporation is involved, their motivation is to make profit, and decisions about how the school is built will reflect that. P3s are not just more expensive, they're worse for Alberta's kids." 


Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour, 780.218.4351 (cell)

or via email -

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Election forum puts Temporary Foreign Worker program in the spotlight

AFL to help inform voters about differences between candidates stance on controversial guest-worker program

FORT MCURRAY–Fort McMurray-Athabasca voters will examine the Temporary Foreign Worker program at a forum on Monday, June 16.

At an event organized by the Alberta Federation of Labour, residents of Fort McMurray-Athabasca are invited to share their experiences with how the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has affected the economy and the job market in the region. AFL president Gil McGowan will discuss the TFWP as an election issue. All candidates in the upcoming by-election have been invited to attend and are encouraged to come share their thoughts on the controversial program and Fort McMurray-Athabasca's labour challenges.

"The oil sands are ground zero for the use and abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker program," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "It's here that workers, their families, and the community are seeing the biggest impact. It's workers here who have been let go to make room for lower-paid guest workers, and it's here that safety standards are being undermined. So voters here should know what the people who want to represent them in Ottawa plan to do about this program."

The event will be held at the Fort McMurray Legion (9317 Huggard Street) at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, June 16. The event will be an opportunity for voters to learn more about the problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and to ask questions about what can be done.

"The resignation of the sitting MP has given voters here a unique opportunity to send a message to Ottawa that this program needs to be shut down," McGowan said. "By holding this forum, we're trying to educate voters about what can be done on this issue. This by-election can be a referendum on the Temporary Foreign Worker program."

Over the past decade, the Temporary Foreign Worker program has ballooned, going from fewer than 200,000 when the Conservatives took power in 2006, to more than 350,000 today. Most of the growth of the program has been in the oil sector and in low-wage jobs. Alberta has the highest per-capita use of the Temporary Foreign Worker program, with more than 85,000 working in the province.

“Fort McMurray is the beating heart of Alberta’s economy, so what happens here affects the entire province — and the entire country,” McGowan said. “If the workers here send a clear message that this program is not in the best interests of Fort McMurray-Athabasca, then the power brokers in Ottawa will have to admit the program is not in the best interests of Canada.”



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail


G:\Communications\NEWS\AFL\2014\2014-22_Election Forum Puts Temporary Foreign Worker Program in Spotlight_2014June16.docx

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