Canadians cannot allow business lobbyists to dominate discussion of guest-worker program
Edmonton – The Federal Government must listen to working Canadians, not just employers when they review the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
On Thursday, it was announced that the federal government will launch a full-scale review of the deeply flawed Temporary Foreign Worker Program. MaryAnn Mihychuk, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, has asked a parliamentary committee for proposals as to how to fix the program.
“Canadian workers cannot let business do all the talking when the government asks questions about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Because we know what business wants, and we know that they’ll lobby hard for easier access to exploitable workers they can push around.”
The AFL has been a leader in opposing the Temporary Foreign Worker program, conducting extensive research into the use and abuse of the guest worker program. Because of the Alberta Federation of Labour’s efforts, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper was forced to impose some modest reforms to the program. The AFL will be contacting the minister, and will ask to be included in the review process.
“There are still major problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program: Employers still use it to avoid paying decent wages; workers still face wage theft and abuse; it still acts as an impediment to young Canadians working on apprenticeships,” McGowan said. “This review could be a chance to fix some of those problems. Or it could be a chance for the government to re-open the cheap labour floodgates.”
Since 2006, the number of Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada has more than tripled. And Alberta is ground zero for the abuse of the program – and of Temporary Foreign workers. Because Temporary Foreign Workers are dependent on the whims of their employers for their right to stay in Canada, they are at a disadvantage in terms of negotiating for fair wages, safe workplaces and respectful treatment. They face higher rates of wage theft, higher rates of workplace abuse, and often work for lower wages.
“The Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and other guest-worker programs in Canada, should probably be scrapped altogether,” McGowan said. “At the very least, the existing rules about hiring Canadians first need to be enforced, and proactive inspections of Temporary Foreign Worker worksites need to be conducted to prevent abuse. We also need to make sure that employers can’t circumvent rules designed to protect Canadian workers by using worker mobility programs in trade agreements.”
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Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org