In an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week, the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) makes a series of recommendations it claims will address the problem of "labour shortages" in the construction industry. The Alberta Federation of Labour responded to the letter today, saying it is full of self-interested rhetoric and glosses over the industry's poor track record of propping up domestic labour supply.
"The CCA letter is nothing but self-interested, self-serving spin to loosen rules for temporary foreign workers," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "The construction industry is looking to the government to solve a problem they themselves created through years of neglect of the Canadian labour pool."
CCA claims it has done all it can to encourage domestic workers to earn certification in the trades. This isn't so, says McGowan. The apprenticeship and training system in Canada is a mess, and construction employers are a central player in how it operates.
"In Alberta alone, there are 20,000 construction employers. Only 11,000 use apprentices. If 45% of construction companies won't hire a single apprentice, why should we let them import massive numbers of temporary workers?"
"According to official figures, less than one-half of Albertans who enter an apprenticeship program successfully complete the program and become certified. A 55% failure rate is an embarrassment," says McGowan.
McGowan points out that improving Alberta completion rates to 75% could add 4,000 new certified trades workers to the Alberta labour market each year. "That would go a long way to addressing the concerns about lack of workers. Multiply Alberta's 4000 with 9 other provinces, and there is a large pool of workers wanting to be tradespeople, but failed to accomplish it for some reason."
"We should be exploring those solutions before making knee-jerk policy changes to a complex area such as immigration.
McGowan notes the AFL supports more permanent immigration to Canada, wanting reforms that will encourage people from around the world to settle in Canada. "But bringing in temporary workers, who are very vulnerable to abuse and exploitation is no solution."
"Immigration policy should be about building a stronger society, not importing cheap labour to serve the short-term needs of employers," McGowan concludes.
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For More Information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL President @ (780) 218-9888 (cell)