Problems with TFW program extend beyond food services sector

AFL reveals hundreds of unlawful TFW permits issued by Minister Kenney

 EDMONTON – Problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker program are not limited to the food service industry.

An Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) audit of Temporary Foreign Worker permits (Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) uncovered hundreds of instances where the Harper government broke its own rules and allowed TFWs to be paid less than Albertans. This undermines all Canadian workers.

“Minister Kenney has now banned the use of TFWs in food services. But while the food service industry may be the worst offender, it is by no means the only industry that has been using the TFW program to displace Canadians and drive down wages. So targeting food services is not enough,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “The government needs to immediately scrap all low-wage streams of the TFW program and put a moratorium on medium and high-skilled streams pending an open and transparent investigation.”

Piecing together hundreds of pages of records obtained through Access to Information, the AFL investigation found hundreds of cases where the Minister for Employment and Social Development, Jason Kenney, issued permits to employers that allowed those employers to pay TFWs less than Albertans.

“There is a clear pattern to this government’s handling of the Temporary Foreign Worker program,” McGowan said. “They’re bending, breaking, circumventing and ignoring the rules they set up to prevent abuse. And because of that, employers in all kinds of sectors are using the program to drive down wages across the country and throughout the economy.”

An employer must – according to Ministry guidelines, pay the prevailing wage rate for the region and the occupation. The permits issued are therefore unlawful. The documents show a pattern of abuse of the program far beyond fast food outlets.

“The abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker program has only gotten worse since Jason Kenney took over Employment and Social Development Canada,” McGowan said. “Ultimately, he’s the one responsible for these permits. If ministerial responsibility means anything, Jason Kenney has to resign.”

In 2012-13, unlawful permits were found for hotels, gas stations, truck stops, casinos, ski lift operations, convenience stores, greenhouses, industrial farming operations, feedlots, nurseries, and various occupations in restaurants.

The AFL is writing to the federal Auditor General to conduct a full investigation. Given the seriousness of the allegations and the pattern of abuse of the program within Jason Kenney’s ministry, the AFL is examining other avenues for investigation, such as the federal Ethics and Accountability Commissioner.

Notes on the Data

The AFL obtained the prevailing wage rates used to issue Labour Market Opinions to employers who wish to hire a Temporary Foreign Worker. This data is broken down by occupational classification and by region of the province.

We also obtained a list of LMOs given to employers for $0.50 above Alberta’s minimum wage.  Several Temporary Foreign Workers may be admitted under one LMO.

Under the regulations, employers may not pay TFWs less than the prevailing wage rate for a specific occupation in a specific region.

For most of the lower-skilled occupations where we find thousands of Temporary Foreign Workers, the prevailing wage rate paid to Albertans is more than $0.50 above minimum wage. In many cases, such as farm workers, the prevailing wage rate paid to Albertans is up to 50 per cent higher than the minimum wage. And yet, employers were given permits to hire TFWs for far less than what they have to pay Alberta workers.

The fact that this is not confined to a few isolated incidents in one industry sector points to a pattern of using TFWs to drive down Canadian wages and an intensification of the pattern since Jason Kenney took over responsibility for the permits.

To date, Canadians have never seen so much evidence of the program being used across the economy to undercut Canadian wages. All previous evidence that this was the case was presented as one bad employer or anecdotal. The AFL’s investigation – by examining thousands of TFW permit records and matching them to prevailing wage rates at the regional level – shows that the Harper government has been complicit in the undermining of Canadian wages.

AFL Backgrounder: Alberta Employers with LMOs allowing them to pay less than “prevailing market wage”

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail
orokne@afl.org

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Advisory: Problems with TFW program extend beyond food services

AFL reveals hundreds of unlawful TFW permits issued by Minister Kenney

EDMONTON – Problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker program are not limited to the food service industry.

At a press conference at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 25, the Alberta Federation of Labour will unveil research showing that hundreds of Labour Market Opinions – which are required for employers to bring in Temporary Foreign Workers – have been issued in direct contravention of the rules of the program.

"There is a clear pattern to this government's handling of the Temporary Foreign Worker program," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "They're bending, breaking, circumventing and ignoring the rules they set up to prevent abuse. And because of that, employers in all kinds of sectors are using the program to drive down wages across the country and throughout the economy."

What:  New research shows problems with TFW program pervasive across many sectors of the economy

When:  11:00 a.m., Friday, April 25, 2014

Where: Alberta Federation of Labour offices, #300, 10408-124 Street

Who:    Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) President Gil McGowan

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail orokne@afl.org

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LCOP MEDIA ADVISORY: Labour leaders at legislature to show opposition to pension bills

EDMONTON – Despite months of protests, and despite all opposition parties uniting against the proposals, the Government is moving forward on controversial public‐sector pension legislation today.

The union leaders representing the vast majority of the workers who will be affected by the legislation will be on hand at the Legislature Rotunda today at 3:00 p.m. to show their opposition to the legislation that is being debated. The legislative session is expected to go late into the evening as opposition MLAs try to impede the legislation.

What:

Leaders of Alberta’s Public‐Sector Unions will be available for comment on Bill 9 ‐Public Sector Pension Plans Amendment Act, 2014

When:

3:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 23, 2014

 Where:

 Legislature Rotunda, 2nd Floor (10800 – 97 Ave. NW, Edmonton)

 Who:

 Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) President Gil McGowan Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) President Guy Smith Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Alberta President Marle Roberts United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) President Heather Smith

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail orokne@afl.org

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Open Letter to all MLA's Re: Amendments to the Public Sector Pension Plan Act

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2014 Alberta Labour Coalition on Pensions Updated Leaflet

The Government is gutting the pension you paid for.

Updated Information as of February 24, 2014

Updated Leaflet - Alberta Labour Coalition on Pensions

Take action at http://www.truthaboutalbertapensions.ca/

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Child labour on government agenda

Tories turning their backs on 120 years of social progress

Edmonton – Likely Progressive Conservatives (PC) leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk is positioning himself as the proponent of businesses putting 12-year-olds to work.

Expanding the scope of duties 12-year-olds can take on is the first item on the agenda in the discussion guide for the current review of the Alberta Employment Standards Code which is being led by Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Thomas Lukaszuk.

“We know the Tories are always looking backwards, but feeling nostalgia for 1890s-style child labour is extreme even by their standards,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “Last time the government expanded child labour in Alberta, the public cried foul. This just shows that they aren’t listening to Albertans.”

The discussion guide, which was published under Lukaszuk’s supervision, suggests that among the tasks that 12-year-olds could take on include janitorial work. Many janitors and custodians are required to handle toxic cleaning products as part of their duties.

“In the mid-1980s, Employment Standards did not allow 12- 14-year-old children to work in mainstream workplaces. But in 2005, the PC’s changed opened the door to child labour in Alberta,” McGowan said. “There were rules in place about how many hours children are allowed to work – but in the majority of cases, those rules aren’t being followed. Now Thomas Lukaszuk wants to weaken those rules even further.”

In 2009, a survey found 26,000 adolescent workers aged 12-14 were employed. More than 21 per cent of these 12- to 14-year-olds worked in prohibited occupations (janitorial services, sports teams, working on a golf course). Of those employed, 49.7 per cent of adolescents and 59.0 per cent of young persons reported at least one work-related injury in the previous year. This study also identifies widespread non-reporting of workplace injuries and seemingly ineffective hazard identification and safety training.

“Each time the issue of expanding child labour comes up in Alberta, there’s one guy who has put it on the agenda,” McGowan said.

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail
orokne@afl.org
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2002 May Submission Financial Management Commission

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2000 Submission Prov Standing Policy Committee on Learning: What's Wrong with Alberta's Labour Law?

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2014 Executive Summary AFL Submision on Employment Standards Review

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2014 AFL Submission to Employment Standards Review

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