As Albertans and Canadians we have developed a society that has deeply held beliefs in the importance of caring for others and cooperating to improve our lives. One way we express these values is by building institutions that can help us achieve these goals. Institutions such as Medicare, the CBC, unions and our system of public education, to name just a few, are a part of our history and culture. How then do we ensure young people today and tomorrow learn about OUR history, culture and values?Read more
Canada Jobs Grant will take from the poor, to give to the rich
Edmonton – The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) is asking Premier Alison Redford to refuse the Canada Jobs Grant.
Federal and provincial ministers are meeting this week to discuss the controversial proposal that would see $300 million dollars taken away from existing government-run training programs to help subsidize employer-driven training. On top of seeing federal funds redirected, the program requires provincial governments to come up with additional matching funding. Moving ahead with the Canada Jobs Grant would mean that Alberta’s existing skills training programs would lose $33 million. The total impact to Alberta’s budget would be $66 million.
“There’s no guarantee that these grants won’t just be used for existing training that successful employers are already doing. And to pay for it, they want to scrap programs that are helping disadvantaged people participate in the labour force,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “The Canada Jobs Grant will further marginalize Alberta’s unemployed and underemployed workers. These workers are being passed over for stable, well-paying jobs, and sidelined in today’s economy. They’re robbing Peter to pay Midas.”
In areas with high unemployment rates, the program will be an unmitigated disaster. Employers who cannot afford to hire workers will not be able to afford $5,000 cash for training purposes. If no employers contribute, skills training programs will not otherwise be offered.
“The Canada Jobs Grant is essentially a wholesale privatization of the federal government’s role in skills training,” McGowan said. “There’s no incentive for employers to help train people who have been excluded from the economy, so they’re going to be left behind by this program.”
McGowan also noted that program is limited to short-term training, overlooking the need for workers in health care and the skilled trades, where developing the skills required takes four years or more.
The Alberta Federation of Labour has presented proposals that could help make the proposed grant system more functional.
“It’s key that we make this program work for young workers, for Indigenous Canadians, for women, and we need to see it available regardless of employer’s funding,” McGowan said. “It needs to work for Canadians who are on Employment Insurance, and for areas with high unemployment.”-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Petroleum Human Resources Council acquired by Enform Canada
CALGARY — The end of the $17.5-million federal sector council program has forced the marriage of the oil and gas industry's safety and human resources associations in Calgary.
The Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada, created as a sector council to study industry labour needs in 2001, announced on Monday that it will officially be acquired by safety training group Enform Canada.
The change will result in a staff reduction at the HR Council to eight from 13 as well as a reduced mandate as it focuses on its labour market analysis and careers information functions.
"The prime driver of this is the cancellation of the federal government's sector council program effective March 31," said Cheryl Knight, executive director of the HR Council, who will give up her title as chief executive.
"The acquisition by Enform of us is enabling us to continue to be an industry-directed non-profit association with support from industry but we can continue to access federal and provincial funding through projects."
She said Canada's 35 sector councils were notified in July 2011 their funding, $500,000 each per year, would disappear at the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year.
In the case of the HR council, that added up to 75 per cent of its core budget.
The program's end comes a week after a federal budget which included the new Canada job grant program to fund training for the skills and trades most hurt by a lack of trained workers.
The program gives workers up to $15,000 in job training funds: $5,000 each from the federal government, the provinces and their employers.
The sector councils were also designed to address skills development issues in partnership with industry in key sectors of the economy.
Brenda Kenny, president of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, an HR Council supporter, said she's confident that industry will "step up" to continue work on safety and skills development, aided by federal government programs such as the job grants.
"The key is to back up and recognize there is a combination of research, of training programs, of demographic forecasting, all of which will need to continue in various ways," she said.
But Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said the changes at the HR Council represent a setback for skills needs planning in Alberta because of less worker imput.
"These (sector councils) are the last organizations where working people had a real voice at the table," he said.
"Their function may continue with Enform but the process of tripartite (government, industry, worker) consultation is almost certainly going down the tubes."
Knight said the HR Council will do less in the areas of creating employer tools and working on immigrant employment but will continue to operate an oil and gas careers website with a job board.
Enform is a non-profit organization created by the oil and gas industry to promote safety standards in Canada's upstream industry through training, certifications, services and resources.
"The acquisition gives us access to valuable information and expertise to better align our training and safety services to industry workforce issues," said Enform president and CEO Cameron MacGillivray in a news release.
The two groups are supported by many of the same industry associations, including the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Petroleum Services Association of Canada, and they share office space at 5055 11th St. N.E.
Enform, with 120 staff, also has training centres near Edmonton and at Fort St. John, B.C., plus an office in Regina.
The HR Council is often cited in the media in stories about skills needs, such as a warning last spring that Canada's oil and gas industry will need to fill a minimum of 9,500 jobs by 2015.
Other sector councils have also turned to the private sector to fill the gap in funding.
Robert Donald, executive director of the Ottawa-based Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace, said Monday his group also shares office space to cut costs.
He added the organization's mandate has been expanded to appeal to a greater range of industry sponsors and a magazine it once published has been cancelled.
Another Ottawa-based sector council, the Aboriginal Human Resources Council, says on its website it is trying to increase private sector funding to make up for the $500,000 gap in its annual budget of $3 million to $4 million.
The Edmonton Journal, Monday, Mar. 25, 2013
Byline: Dan Healing, The Calgary Herald
CALGARY - Alberta business groups say a rejigged skills training program included in the most recent federal budget could offer some relief for the province's tight labour market.
Travis Davies of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says connecting the right workers with the right jobs is a "huge challenge" in the oilpatch, where skilled tradespeople such as pipefitters and plumbers are in high demand.
"To the degree that you can get support from both the federal government and the provincial government, it's very positive," he said.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty made skills training a centrepiece of the 2013-14 budget with the Canada Job Grant.
Ottawa, provincial governments and employers would each shoulder a third of the $15,000 training grant, which is expected to come into effect about a year from now.
Ottawa still needs to get the provinces on side with the plan, and Quebec and Ontario have already expressed misgivings.
But in the West, where unemployment rates are very low, the idea is being embraced.
The man in charge of recruitment at oil producer Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE) called the announcement "exciting."
"I think it provides an opportunity and incentive for all appropriate stakeholders to work more closely together," he said.
"I think it's important to recognize that this is a piece of the puzzle. It's not something that was announced to be the ultimate solution."
Ben Brunnen, chief economist at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, called the job grant a "great first step" that is "key to helping to alleviate the labour challenges."
"What that does is it ensures that the provinces and the federal government and employers get together at the same table to make sure they get the right people with the right skills in the right job."
The labour tightness is not restricted to Alberta's all-important oil and gas industry, Brunnen said. The tourism and hospitality industries, for instance, are also having a tough time.
"It definitely permeates across the Alberta economy," he said. "There are particular occupations under pressure in Alberta that are confronted with relatively chronic shortages and increasingly, employers have been focusing on overseas and immigrants as solutions to the labour challenges."
Brunnen said the chamber also likes that there will be more of a focus on attracting talent within Canada than from overseas.
"That's been the big issue for employers — yes, there might be some Canadians that are unemployed but they just don't have the skills that we're looking for."
However, there are challenges in attracting workers to Alberta that don't have to do with training, Brunnen conceded.
"A lot of the demand for the energy sector is happening in the field, in the oilpatch. Those are in locations that are sometimes a little bit difficult to work in, or are sometimes a little bit remote."
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said the government's job training promises amount to a "fraud" so long as the temporary foreign worker program is an option.
The budget did include some new rules making it harder for employers to rely on the temporary foreign worker program.
"Employers in this country are not going to train workers aggressively as long as they have the option to use cheap, exploitable workers through the Temporary Foreign Worker program," said McGowan.
"We'll never have a system that actually promotes the training of the next generation of skilled trades as long as the temporary foreign worker program is continuously expanded, which is exactly what we've been seeing with the Harper government over the last five years."
Victoria Times Colonist, Friday, Mar. 22, 2013
Byline: Lauren Krugel, Canadian Press
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney continues to remove barriers to ensure Alberta's oilsands and construction industries have access to the skilled tradespeople they need. Last week, Kenney expanded a pilot program that allows foreign workers to change bosses, rather than being tethered to one employer for the duration of their stay.
We think that makes sense and provides a measure of flexibility for temporary workers, as well as some assurance they won't have to endure abuse from their bosses.
"This collapses what used to be a six-month, complicated, bureaucratic process into a one-step process, where they can get a work permit in 30 minutes at the airport," Kenney said.
For the past year, foreign steamfitters and pipefitters in the pilot project have been able to move freely between Alberta employers. Now, other in-demand tradespeople, including welders, heavy-duty mechanics, ironworkers, millwrights and carpenters will also be able to join the program.
A concern raised by Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan bears noting. He says half the companies looking to hire foreign construction workers don't offer apprenticeship training programs - a shortcoming that should be remedied.
Canadians rightly expect skilled foreign workers to complement a homegrown workforce, not substitute for skills training. Both levels of government, and industry, need to ensure that young people, women and aboriginals, in particular, are given a chance to secure trades training so they can have access to lucrative and rewarding careers.
Calgary Herald Editorial, July 23 2012
AFL says government is wrong and Chartered Accountants are right: labour shortage fears are overblown
EDMONTON-The Alberta Federation of Labour released internal government documents today, showing claims of a catastrophic "labour shortage" are based on a bizarre calculation not used anywhere else in Canada, and never used previously in Alberta.
Calculations using more conventional and widely accepted methods show that there will be more workers than jobs in Alberta for the foreseeable future.
"Albertans have been told by government and business that the sky is falling and that desperate measures are necessary," say Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan. "But the truth is that someone has been playing games with the numbers: the labour market situation in Alberta is not nearly as dire as we've been led to believe."
The AFL obtained Government of Alberta documents showing the often-cited shortage of "114,000 workers by 2021" is based on a complicated calculation that uses obscure methods not seen since 1957.
Rather than a straightforward labour supply and demand calculation – used in other provinces and in Alberta until 2009 - Alberta now employs a "growth in demand/growth in supply" projection model. This model appears to be designed to yield a desired conclusion - an imminent and catastrophic shortage of workers.
The AFL has re-calculated the government's projections using more traditional methods. These calculations show that supply will outpace demand for the entire forecast period up to 2021.
These findings are in line with a report released yesterday by Certified General Accountants Association of Canada. The CGAAC report argues that while shortages of skilled labour do exist across Canada, they are sporadic and tend to be short-lived.
McGowan has written to Human Services Minister Dave Hancock advising him about the Accountant's report and asking his department to return to the more traditional method for calculating labour demand – and if not, asking him to explain why not.
His letter reads, in part: "Labour market projections are used to make important public policy decisions that have profound implications for working people and the economy. We cannot afford to get these calculations wrong because bad analysis leads to bad policy. And this isn't just a hypothetical problem. Inaccurate and misleading projections on labour shortages have already led to bad public policy such as the unjustified expansion the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the unnecessary changes that were made by the federal government to the age of eligibility for CPP and the punitive changes that were recently made to the EI system."
McGowan calls the claims of a catastrophic labour shortage "economics gobbledeegook intended to mislead the public about the actual state of the labour market."
"There is no question there are tight labour markets for some select trades," says McGowan. "But a somewhat tight labour market for select occupations or skills doesn't translate into an economy-wide shortage."
"Select skills shortages can be solved by government and industry investments in training and apprenticeship," continues McGowan. "The provincial government should also be working with the federal government to more effectively connect unemployed people in other provinces with jobs in Alberta. For example, we should be talking about things like making relocation allowance part of the EI program."
"Why did Alberta change the way it calculates a labour shortage?" asks McGowan. "It's likely the result of pressure from employers who have discovered that the notion of a massive labour shortage can be used as an effective political tool to win policies that drive down wages, such as expanding the Temporary Foreign Worker program."
"Working closely with the Harper government, low-wage lobbyists like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and non-union construction groups like the Merit Contractors Association have been pressuring the government to use creative math to manufacture a crisis. This crisis is then being used to win policies that shortchange hardworking Canadians out of wages that keep up with the cost of living," adds McGowan.
"Any claim of a massive labour shortage must be taken with enough grains of salt to fill an oil sands-sized dump truck."
For more information:
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour, (780) 218-9888
Read the Backgrounder
Faced with a looming labour shortage in a perpetually expanding economy, the door is opening wider for temporary foreign workers specializing in six in-demand trades, announced federal immigration minister Jason Kenney, Monday.
The changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers program will reduce the amount of paperwork needed to hire trained foreign workers who can work as welders, heavy-duty mechanics, ironworkers, millwrights, carpenters and estimators - jobs that are in short supply in Alberta.
The new program - which is part of a one-year pilot project - will also allow skilled workers to move freely between Alberta employers without requiring authorization from Ottawa.
"It sounds like a good deal. We need those skills here in Alberta and if one employer can't use them anymore or goes through some internal changes, they can stay here and find other employment," said Ken Chapman, executive director of the Oil Sands Developers Group.
The changes have scrapped what used to be a bureaucratic, six-month application process, in favour of a one-step, streamlined process.
Companies can now begin recruiting in visa exempt countries, such as the United States, and invite those workers to Canada. As long as the workers make an application to work in Canada as a trades person, they can now be issued a work permit at major Canadian airports in as little as 30 minutes.
Under the current program, Chapman says foreign workers coming to Canada are issued a visa that only allows them to work under one employer. If a worker with skilled labour was laid off or fired, they were often forced to return home if they could not alter their visa conditions.
"We need to treat the foreign workers who come here with in-demand skills and trades in a fair way that meets the needs of industry and the region," he said. "It's a good move."
Ottawa hopes the move will fill a growing void in skilled labour. However, the Alberta Federation of Labour says the pilot program will leave fewer safeguards for foreign workers.
"Foreign workers are supposed to receive comparable wages and working conditions as Canadians, but there are no real mechanisms in place to ensure this happens. Once the foreign workers are in the province, they work at the whim of their employer," says Nancy Furlong, secretary-treasurer of the AFL, which represents 150,000 Alberta workers.
Furlong points to a 2010 provincial report that found 74% of employers who used the Temporary Foreign Worker program had violated the Employment Standards Act regarding pay rates and record keeping.
"Canadians should get first crack at these jobs. But the Harper government is more interested in the bottom line of their friends in the non-union construction sector," she said.
"The result is employers can use these workers in ways that Canadians might not tolerate," says Furlong. "Once a foreign worker is brought in under this program, they can be moved around willy-nilly at the behest of the employer or employers who brought them in."
Fort McMurray Today, Wedn July 18 2012
Byline: Vincent McDermott
The rules changed on January 31st, increasing the ratio from 1:1.
Even though critics say safety will be compromised, a government spokesman says it will not.
Kevin Donnan with Alberta Education and Technology says the same standards and practices will apply.
He tells the Edmonton Journal a number of industry people have come forward to say the ratio is more than adequate.
Gil McGowan with the Alberta Federation of Labour fears the new rules will water down the quality of apprentice education and could also compromise workmanship.
iNews 880, Sat Feb 5 2011