Alberta Federation of Labour skeptical of TFW program review

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Alberta Federation of Labour skeptical of TFW program review
Tories created this monster, can’t be trusted to tame it

Edmonton - Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program is broken and despite their promise of a review the Federal Conservatives are unlikely to fix it, says the Alberta Federation of Labour.

On Thursday, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announced that the program would be reviewed, due to criticism over the decision to grant permits to more than 200 Chinese nationals to work in a northeast B.C. coal project.

“If they want to find the source of the problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the Harper Conservatives just need to look in the mirror,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “They created this monster by removing any checks and balances from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and by rubberstamping every application.”

Fuelled by exaggerated labour shortage claims, Alberta employers have made more aggressive use of the TFW program than employers in any other province. There are currently more than 60,000 Temporary Foreign Workers in Alberta, giving the province the biggest TFW population in Canada as a proportion of the labour force. More than 50,000 additional TFW applications from Alberta employers were approved in 2011.

In a letter to the Human Resources Minister, McGowan expressed skepticism about how the federal government intends to re-examine the TFW program. The last time the Tories held hearings about the program, the hearings were held behind closed doors and had no public consultation.

“Another set of secretive meetings with business leaders will not be sufficient. This review cannot be conducted in the same manner,” McGowan said. “They have spent the last five years creating this problem by whittling away at safeguards. I have no confidence in their ability to fix it.”

After the last set of hearings in April, the federal government removed safeguards that had been designed to prevent abuse of the TFW program. Under the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (ALMO) process, which was introduced earlier this year, employers can bring in workers under the TFW program and pay them 15 per cent less than the prevailing wage rates in the region.

“Previously, employers would have needed to show that they had made an effort to recruit workers from within Canada. Not anymore,” McGowan said, noting that the changes had been made behind closed doors, with no input from the public or real labour unions. “We have a system where it’s cheap and easy for an employer to exploit this program. Is it any surprise there are problems?”

Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan will be available to media to speak about this issue outside of MP Laurie Hawn’s office at 1:30 p.m. today, Friday, Nov. 9.

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MEDIA AVAILABILITY:  

Gil McGowan, Alberta Federation of Labour President
at 780-218-9888 (cell) or 780-483-3021 (office)
Friday, November 9, 2012 at 1:30 p.m.
Outside the constituency office of Laurie Hawn, MP (11156 – 142nd Street, Edmonton)

For Backgrounder click here.

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