EDMONTON - The Alberta Federation of Labour today strongly criticized the federal government's proposed new measures to fast-track citizenship for only certain classes of temporary foreign workers in Canada.
"By restricting this benefit to only professional, technical and skilled occupations, the government is setting up a permanent underclass of unskilled temporary foreign workers who will be deprived of the rights to citizenship being extended only to elite workers," says Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan.
"The great majority of temporary foreign workers in Alberta do not fall into the privileged O, A and B designated occupations," says McGowan. "In 2007, only 14,842 Alberta temporary foreign workers would have been included - a bare 39.8 per cent of all temporary foreign workers in the province. That means 22,415 other, lesser skilled temporary foreign workers in Alberta would be excluded from this proposed citizenship fast-track."
McGowan notes that the fastest growing occupational category for temporary foreign workers in Alberta has been the excluded "skill level D" which is made up of unskilled service sector workers and labourers. "The newly released 2007 figures show that this category now accounts 6,338 workers," says McGowan. He also notes that total workers in this category has grown by 3463 per cent since 2003 - exponentially more than any other skill category.
"The government is saying that these people are good enough to come in and do the low paying and often tremendously physically gruelling jobs no one else is willing to do, but they will never be good enough to be citizens," says McGowan. "They will be a permanent underclass of exploited workers endlessly cycled back to their home countries when we're done with them."
McGowan was also critical of the effect this fast-tracking would have on the mainstream immigration system. "The government is basically allowing employers to decide who will be at the front of the cue for immigration," says McGowan. "If elite temporary foreign workers are given an inside track for immigration, then it is individual employers, not the government, who will be setting immigration priorities. That will create an unbalanced and unfair immigration process."
For more information call:
Gil McGowan, AFL President @ 780.483-3021 (office) or 780.218-9888 (cell)
Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer @ 780.483-3021 (office) or 780-720-8945 (cell)
Jason Foster, Director, Policy Analysis @ 780.483-3021