Temporary Foreign Worker Advocate Releases 6-Month Report

Media Availability

2:30 p.m., Salon A, Chateau Lacombe Crowne Plaza (10111 Bellamy Hill)

(Copies of the report are available this morning at www.afl.org)

EDMONTON-The Alberta Federation of Labour today released the 6-month report of the Temporary Foreign Worker Advocate project, launched this past April. The report outlines the activities of the Advocate, highlights the most common problems with the program and offers 21 specific recommendations to both provincial and federal governments to fix the program.

The report (click here) is available at www.afl.org immediately. AFL President Gil McGowan will accompany Yessy Byl, the TFW Advocate, at a media availability at 2.30 this afternoon to discuss the report.

"After six months of helping foreign workers, I can only conclude that there are deep and troubling flaws in the foreign worker program," says Yessy Byl, the Advocate. "The rapid expansion of the program in the past two years has been an unqualified disaster."

"When we launched the Advocate project, we knew there was exploitation going on, but we didn't realize just how widespread it is," says McGowan. "Alberta has created a disposable workforce."

In six months, Byl took more than 1,400 phone calls and opened files for 123 temporary foreign workers (TFWs). She also offered presentations to hundreds of Albertans to educate them about the program. "The demand has been overwhelming. Clearly there are thousands of foreign workers needing help and have nowhere to turn," observes Byl.

A number of problems experienced by foreign workers have re-occurred frequently, Byl reports. For example, 89 of the 123 cases reported problems with a "labour broker" - being forced to pay illegal fees to brokers or brokers making misleading promises to lure them to Canada. Some other of the more common concerns are:

* Substandard wages and working conditions;
* Jobs disappearing without notice;
* Excessive rents charged by employers for substandard housing;
* Lack of enforcement of basic employment protections; and
* Long wait times for work permits.

The report has one key recommendation - calling for the program to be scaled back to its original intent and the immigration system reformed to allow more permanent immigration of these workers. Realizing this is an ambitious recommendation, the Advocate also makes 20 other recommendations aimed at improving the living and working conditions for TFWs. These include:

  • Remove employer names from work permits to allow TFWs to switch jobs;
  • allow TFWs to apply for permanent immigration status without employer-sponsorship;
  • Active enforcement by the province to ensure employment standards are being met;
  • Stronger provisions prohibiting broker fees to TFWs with stiff penalties for contravention;
  • Limits on rents and minimum housing standards;
  • Create an arm's-length provincial TFW Advocate funded by the government to assist TFWs free-of-charge with complaints and concerns.

"The evidence is now conclusive - the TFW program is a mess and thousands of foreign workers are paying the price for it. The federal and provincial governments must act now. There is no more excuse for waiting," concludes McGowan.

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For more information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL President @ 780.483-3021 (office)780.218-9888 (cell)

Yessy Byl, TFW Advocate @ 780.720-8481 (cell)

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