Investigations find employers skimming from TFW paycheques
EDMONTON - Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) face a greater risk of being the victims of payroll fraud.
Information obtained by the Alberta Federation of Labour shows that employers are likelier to violate the Employment Standards Code when they’re dealing with TFWs. Of investigations launched because of a complaint by a TFW, 47 per cent found the employer had contravened the Code. By comparison, the figure was 33 per cent when the complaint came from a Canadian worker.
“Workers brought in under the Temporary Foreign Worker program are less likely to know their workplace rights, are more likely to have language barriers, and are beholden to their employer for their ability to stay in Canada,” Alberta Federation of Labour Secretary Treasurer Siobhan Vipond said. “It seems clear that some predatory employers know these workers are vulnerable, and they’re exploiting that vulnerability. It’s disgraceful.”
The figures, which were collected from April 2012 – March 2013, were the result of investigations that were started because of a worker complaint. The province investigated only 218 complaints despite there being 68,319 TFWs in Alberta at that time.
“These are just the cases where there was a worker who was able to file a complaint,” Vipond said. “This is further evidence that the government needs to get serious about protecting TFWs and enforcing the rules. The province needs to resume proactive inspections; otherwise wage theft may never come to light.”
From 2009 to 2011, Alberta conducted a limited number of proactive investigations of work sites with Temporary Foreign Workers. The rate of payroll contraventions varied from month to month, peaking at 74 per cent in January 2010, but rarely dropping below 50 per cent.
“The federal government needs to axe the Temporary Foreign Worker program. Until the feds get around to that, Alberta needs to resume and ramp up their policing of workplaces with TFWs,” Vipond said. “These workers should be paid fairly. The government needs to ensure employers aren’t skimming from their paycheques.”
AFL Backgrounder: Temporary Foreign Workers shortchanged by payroll violations-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org