MEDIA ADVISORY: Labour leaders and migrant worker activists slam Kenney’s mishandling of TFW scandal

Temporary Foreign Worker program must be ended
in a manner that respects the rights of workers

EDMONTON – The moratorium on Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) in the food service sector is a first step towards ending the program, but something needs to be done to help TFWs who are already in the country. These workers are just as much victims of bad public policy as the Canadians who have been displaced by the program.

That’s the message that will be delivered by Alberta’s top labour leader and a leading migrant-workers advocate at a news conference this afternoon.

“The Harper government’s Temporary Foreign Worker program is a train wreck. It should be scrapped and the government should go back to the drawing board,” says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. “But thousands and thousands of foreign workers now face the prospect of deportation. Today, we want to present the government with a modest proposal: close off all low-wage streams of the TFW program going forward, but let the workers who are in Canada already stay – but let them stay as permanent residents and citizens as opposed to disposable, exploitable guest workers.”

At the news conference McGowan will explain how closing the low-wage stream of the TFW program will protect Canadian jobs and how granting permanent residency to foreign workers already here will uphold Canadian values.

McGowan will be joined by Marco Luciano, executive director of the migrant workers advocacy group, Migrante, Junniflor Magno, former Temporary Foreign Worker at KFC, as well as a number of Temporary Foreign Workers who will tell stories of mistreatment under the current TFW program and their hopes to stay in Canada as citizens.

When:
1:30 p.m., Thursday, May 15, 2014

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

Who:
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL)
Marco Luciano, Executive Director, Migrante
Junniflor Magno, former Temporary Foreign Worker at KFC

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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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Public Mobilization Sends Conservatives Back to Drawing Board on Pensions

Government Hearings Provide Opportunity for Discussion of Real Retirement Security

EDMONTON – Contentious legislation that could ruin the retirement security of hundreds of thousands of Albertans is off the table … for now.

Bills 9 and 10 — which respectively target public-sector and private-sector defined-benefit plans — will not be passed by the legislature during its current sitting, but will instead be referred to the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future, and will be subject to public hearings. The Bills are expected to return to the legislature for the fall sitting.

“It’s clear that Albertans are making themselves heard. They’ve stood up for their pensions. They’ve let their MLAs know that these Bills are unacceptable,” Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan said. “Together, the hundreds of thousands of people who depend on these plans have made the government pause. Now we have to keep working together to stop the attack on defined-benefit plans.”

The Bills, if passed, would have undermined the retirement security of hundreds of thousands of Albertans by allowing the conversion of modest, stable defined-benefit pensions to less-stable ones. What's more, the Bills would have allowed employers to target benefits already earned.

Since pension legislation was added to the government’s agenda in September, thousands of Albertans have educated themselves on the issues, have visited their MLAs, have participated in rallies at workplaces, have written letters to Premiers Redford and Hancock, have signed petitions, and have protested at the legislature. Alberta’s workers and retirees have found allies like Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties.

“This is democracy in action,” McGowan said. “We’re pleased that the government has acknowledged the need for more consultation and for a more careful review of the evidence and options.”

During the hearings, the Alberta Federation of Labour will urge the government to help the more than 70 per cent of Albertans who have no workplace pension plan and who are facing an insecure retirement. A good place to start would be for the Premier to support the reasonable expansion of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) that is supported by almost every other Canadian province

“The Alberta Federation of Labour and its affiliated member unions look forward to participating in the committee hearings,” McGowan said. “We look forward to reminding policymakers of the important role that defined-benefit pension plans play in ensuring retirement security for Albertans.”

McGowan is at the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) Convention in Montreal along with members of the coalition including Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Alberta) President Marle Roberts, United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) president Heather Smith, and Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) president Elisabeth Ballermann. They will be available today by phone.

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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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2014 Ltr to Ferguson_request for systems audit of the TFWP

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Alberta remains one of the most dangerous places in Canada to be a worker

AFL calls for action on worker safety during Day of Mourning For Workers Killed or Injured On the Job

EDMONTON – Alberta is one of most dangerous places in Canada to be a worker, but the government has an opportunity to make change for the better.

While taking part in ceremonies for the International Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job today, Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan urged government to use the current Employment Standards Review process to make the province’s workplaces safer.

“Alberta is the only place in Canada where we find so many exemptions and lack of safety inspections, enforcement, or prosecutions. There is more impunity in this province than anywhere else in Canada. It is the best place in Canada for employers to get away with unsafe work, and remains one of the most dangerous places in Canada to be a worker,” McGowan said at the Edmonton District Labour Council’s Day of Mourning ceremony at Grant Notley Park in Edmonton at 6 p.m.

The AFL has a ten-point plan for worker safety on the job, which includes more resources for prosecutions, administrative fines with teeth, posting safety records online, joint worker-employer health and safety committees, eliminating child labour in mainstream workplaces, covering farm workers under occupational health and safety standards, an inquiry into workplace carcinogens and occupational disease, more resources for targeted inspections and enforcement in dangerous industries, ending bonuses to WCB workers for denying claims and increasing WCB premiums in dangerous industries.

So far, the Government of Alberta has refused to implement these common-sense recommendations. Alberta’s workplace fatalities have increased from 43 in 2011 to 52 last year.

THE DAY OF MOURNING BY THE NUMBERS

2013

99 deaths of occupational disease in Alberta

52 deaths from workplace incidents/accidents

37 deaths from motor vehicle collisions on the job

Number of charges laid, at April 28, 2014, by Alberta Crown Prosecutors, stemming from the 52 workplace fatalities in 2013: 0

2012

Number of charges laid, at April 28, 2014, by Alberta Crown Prosecutors stemming from the 51 workplace fatalities in 2012: 2

Number of convictions so far for 2012-13 workplace fatalities: 0

Year Premier Redford promised to include farm workers in Occupational health and Safety standards: 2011

Year Alberta stopped reporting farm worker deaths: 2012

Number of provinces that share Alberta’s exemption for industrial feedlots, grain operations, and other farm workplaces from Occupational Health and Safety Standards: 0

Number of provinces that do not have joint worker-employer health and safety committees: 1 (Alberta)

Number of provinces that allow children between 12-14 to work in some restaurant and retail jobs: 1 (Alberta)

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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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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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2014 Backgrounder_Alberta Employers with LMOs allowing them to pay less than “prevailing market wage”_2014Apr25

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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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