EDMONTON, June 18 /CNW/ - The case of Chinese temporary foreign workers having their paycheques siphoned is a perfect example of how the TFW program is out of control, says the Alberta Federation of Labour. The AFL is responding to a news story in the Edmonton Journal today accounting how 120 workers brought from China were paid a fraction of what they should be paid.
"Murky Chinese contractors, vulnerable workers, a passive union, an indifferent employer and an absent provincial government," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "That adds up to exploitation. This situation could and should have been avoided."
McGowan points out that Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) and the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), a union that preaches collaboration and cooperation with employers, made huge mistakes in their rush to bring the Chinese TFWs into Alberta. CNRL should have insisted that it hire the workers directly, not through Sinopec, owned by the Chinese government, says McGowan.
"The first mistake was allowing the Chinese government to have direct access to these workers. CNRL had a responsibility to make sure they weren't exploited."
"And CLAC failed in its responsibility to these workers. No mainstream union would have permitted an arrangement like allowing an employer to have signing authority on worker bank accounts," says McGowan. "The AFL has affiliates that deal with TFWs, and they place stringent requirements on what the employer does with them, and they make every possible effort to build a relationship with the temporary workers - up to and including running English classes. CLAC made very little effort, it appears."
"The problem is that CLAC trusts employers too much, and it results in situations like this."
McGowan also points blame on the provincial government. "The government is asleep at the switch. They are doing nothing to monitor the working conditions of TFWs or to ensure that their rights are not being violated."
"The result is that the Conservatives are allowing the importation of third-world working conditions into Alberta."
"The problems that led to the Chinese workers being ripped off are the same conditions that led to the two Chinese workers being killed on the same worksite. Lax government oversight, a company in a rush to make billions in profits, and a union that doesn't ask enough questions are all to blame," McGowan concludes.
Energy News, Wed Jun 18 2008