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November 2014: Parkland Conference: People vs. Profiteers; Energy East wrong type of petroleum infrastructure; Immigration – and TFWP – must remain a federal responsibility; did you k...
People versus Profiteers: Demanding justice and equity
The Parkland Institute’s Annual Fall Conference will explore why, at a time of remarkable wealth production, the money seems to be skewing in very particular directions and away from many groups (full-time, part-time, casual workers; women and minorities; the abjectly poor and disabled outside altogether of labour markets, etc.) and towards a small minority; and what can and should be done about it.
WHEN: November 21 – 23, 2014
WHERE: University of Alberta
Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS)
Energy East the wrong type of petroleum infrastructure
The recent application by TransCanada Pipelines to build a pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to the Maritimes is another example of infrastructure projects that will impoverish Canada.
By allowing oil companies to ship low-value product, it will undermine the economic viability of upgrading here in Canada and potentially put Canadians out of work.
“The Energy East pipeline won’t bring Alberta oil to eastern refineries – instead it will channel that oil right past Canadian refineries on the way to foreign markets,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “The closest that Energy East will get to a Canadian refinery is the Irving Refinery in New Brunswick, but even there, oil transported on the pipeline will not go to the refinery itself; instead it will be delivered to a new oil export terminal.”
Through research and advocacy, the Alberta Federation of Labour is engaged in a campaign to encourage the public, media and government to look more closely at the claims being made by proponents of the pipeline, including the current Premiers of Alberta and New Brunswick.
“Despite all the rhetoric and the spin, it’s clear that Energy East is not a ‘nation building’ project. Instead, it is yet another in a long line of projects aimed to perpetuating the ‘rip-it-and-ship-it’ approach that has characterized Canada’s resource sector for too long,” McGowan said.
Immigration – and TFWP – must remain a federal responsibility
Thousands of companies misusing the Temporary Foreign Worker program, uncovered by the Alberta Federation of Labour, prove that the program should remain a federal responsibility.
Documents obtained under freedom of information requests show that in 2013 there were more than 2,000 businesses nationwide whose workforces were more than 30 per cent TFWs – the majority of which were in Alberta. In the same year, more than 1,000 businesses had workforces that were more than 50 per cent TFWs. Again, the majority of these were in Alberta.
“If people are coming to Canada to work here, they should have the right to stay here. And that means immigration, not a ‘temporary’ status,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “If someone is coming to Canada to work, whatever part of the country they move to first, they should have the right to move to other parts of the country if they so choose. That won’t happen if provincial governments are setting up their own separate ‘temporary’ programs.”
The list also raises serious concerns about the role being played by foreign state-owned corporations in the oil sands. More than half of the workers employed in Alberta by companies like Sinopec (a state-owned oil corporation from China) and Samjin (a subsidiary of Korea’s national oil company) are TFWs.
“The Government of Alberta has – pressured by business groups – floated the idea of taking over management of the TFW program from Ottawa. If that ever took place, it would be a disaster for Canadians and Immigrants alike,” McGowan said.
Did you know ...
- Over the past 40 years, the average Canadian on minimum wage has only seen their hourly pay increase by one penny.
- 86 per cent of Canadian families will see no benefit at all from income-splitting.
- Only 19 per cent of Alberta children 0-5 have access to a regulated child care space.
- Alberta is 2nd-last among Canadian provinces for number of regulated spaces per child. Only Saskatchewan has fewer regulated spaces per child.
• November 14-16: AFL Affiliate Political Campaign School
• December 6: Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
• December 10: PIA Open House
Uncovered documents prove employers using TFW program as a first choice rather than offering a decent wage to Canadians
Edmonton – Canadian wages are being undermined by employers who use the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program to avoid paying anything more than minimum wage.
A list obtained by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) shows that 243 employers in Alberta are accessing the Temporary Foreign Worker program rather than paying employees more than the province’s sub-poverty $9.75 minimum wage – the lowest general minimum wage in the country.
“If employers were really using the TFW program as a last resort, rather than a first choice, they wouldn’t be paying these workers the minimum wage,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “They can’t say they’ve actually tried to hire Canadians if they’re not offering more than minimum wage.”
Of the 243 employers, the majority (58 per cent) are in the food service industry. The list includes Boston Pizza locations, Ricky’s All-Day Grills and a variety of sushi restaurants and pubs. The full list can be downloaded HERE. Most of these approved Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) will permit the employer to hire multiple Temporary Foreign Workers.
“This list shows that the TFW program is being used to suppress wages and displace Canadian workers. Anyone claiming that there’s a labour shortage is either deliberately lying, or deeply misinformed,” McGowan said. “If there’s a labour shortage, wages are supposed to be going up to attract workers to fill the vacancies.”
Under the Temporary Foreign Worker program, employers applying to bring in workers must commit to paying the prevailing wages for the type of worker they are hiring. By paying the TFWs minimum wage, these employers are admitting that paying bottom dollar is their standard practice.
“It’s an irony that the Harper Government claims to be a big defender of the free market, but it’s clear that they’re using the TFW program to undermine the Canadian labour market,” McGowan said. “The Federal Conservatives are deliberately using their power to help service-sector employers keep wages low when economic conditions suggest they should be going up.”
The documents released by the AFL also help explain why more and more teenagers and recently arrived landed immigrants are having a hard time getting entry-level jobs. According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate for youths aged 15-24 in Alberta was more than 11 per cent in May.
“For young people, low-wage jobs in the service sector have traditionally been the entry point into the labour market,” McGowan said. “But now those bottom rungs on the ladder are increasingly being filled with exploitable TFWs.”
As of September 1, the minimum wage will be increased to $9.95, but will remain the lowest general minimum wage in Canada. It will remain a wage that is well below the poverty line. Working 35 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, someone earning Alberta’s new minimum wage of $9.95 an hour will earn $18,109 a year before taxes. According to Statistics Canada, the Low-Income Cut-Off (LICO) for a single wage earner with no dependents is $23,298.
“The people campaigning against increases to the minimum wage argue that it’s a starting point, and that most people don’t stay on it. But this list of TFW employers shows that to be a lie,” McGowan said. “Because of the temporary nature of this program, these workers will likely never get a raise.”
The AFL has called for the government to institute a minimum wage that would allow those working full-time to earn a minimum of $23,298 – That would work out to $14.05 without benefits, or $12.08 with benefits.
“Someone working full-time at one of these jobs is below the poverty line. These employers are importing workers so they can be poor here,” McGowan said. “They’re importing poverty.”
AFL Backgrounder: Temporary Foreign Workers and Minimum Wage-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail [email protected]
Edmonton – The Redford government is raising the minimum wage next week, but Alberta’s lowest-income earners will still be the worst-paid in Canada.
As of September 1, the provincial general minimum wage will increase from $9.75 to $9.95. The minimum wage for liquor servers will remain the same at $9.05. Alberta’s minimum wage increases automatically each year under a formula that links the minimum wage to the cost of living.
“A terrible wage that keeps up with inflation will remain a terrible wage,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “How can it be that the richest province is the stingiest? Alberta has a booming economy, a high cost of living, but even with this increase, we have the lowest minimum wage in the country?”
If a minimum wage worker puts in 35 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, they’ll earn $18,109 a year before taxes. That’s significantly less than the Low-Income Cut-Off (LICO), the official poverty line that Statistics Canada defines as $23,298. A rate of $14.05 without benefits, or $12.08 with benefits, would be required for someone working full-time at minimum wage to get beyond that poverty line.
“If someone is working full-time, they should not be below the poverty line,” McGowan said. “In Alberta, we have a sub-poverty wage. It’s a wage that too often will mean choosing between rent and food.”
Workers in B.C., Manitoba and Ontario can all expect a minimum of $10.25 an hour. Nova Scotia is a little bit better at $10.30 an hour. New Brunswick, Newfoundland and N.W.T. all pay $10.00 an hour for minimum wage. In Quebec, it’s $10.15. And in Nunavut, it’s $11.00 an hour.
“The Government’s plan to make annual inflation-based increases to the minimum wage has a lot of merit. The problem is that they started doing so only after many years in which they’d allowed inflation to greatly outpace the minimum wage,” McGowan said. “So when they started with the annual increases, the minimum wage was way, way, way too low for Alberta’s economy.”
In today’s dollars, Alberta’s minimum wages were significantly higher in the late 1970s than they are now. Accounting for inflation, the minimum wage of $3.00 in 1977 had the equivalent buying power of more than $11 today.
“Almost 30,000 Albertans earn the provincial minimum wage. This is a pressing issue to every one of them,” McGowan said. “Almost half of these workers are over the age of 24, and nearly half work these jobs full-time. There are too many people struggling to get by on too low a minimum wage.”
According to government estimates, 1.8% of Alberta’s 1,642,400 are earning minimum wage. More than 72 per cent of Albertans who earn minimum wage are women.
AFL Backgrounder: Minimum Wage 2013-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail [email protected]