Reports of 200 Albertans losing their jobs and being replaced by temporary foreign workers (TFWs) is clear evidence that the TFW program is driving down wages and working conditions, says Alberta's largest labour group.
"The TFW program is being used by the Harper government to undermine companies that work with real unions and to tilt the balance in favour of non-union employers or those who work with employer-dominated worker associations," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers.
"By making it so easy to bring in TFWs, the federal government is giving anti-union employers a new tool to underbid their competitors. The federal government is using the TFW program to interfere in the labour market and take sides with anti-union employers who want to slash wages and offer fewer benefits," says McGowan.
"The government should not be using its power to facilitate a race to the bottom in Canada's most lucrative industry. The Harper Conservatives are happy to let the market decide when it means more profits for its corporate friends, but they interfere when it might help workers," he says.
Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason yesterday (Wednesday) called on Premier Alison Redford to intervene in the case of 200 unionized insulators who were laid off from Suncor's Firebag worksite in Fort McMurray. They were replaced by an employer working with the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) that negotiated an inferior wages-and-benefits package and hired 130 Canadians and 70 TFWs.
"The Alberta government has a duty to act in the interests of Albertans and must do more to protect its citizens. Allowing the TFW program to be used to fire Albertans and to drive down wages and working conditions is a betrayal. It is another attack on working Albertans and the middle class," says the AFL president.
"We hope the new premier stands up for Albertans in this case and also by scrapping a biased review of the provincial labour code launched before her election as premier at the behest of anti-union employers. She has a chance to prove she represents real change and that she puts the interests of all Albertans ahead of the interest of a small group of anti-worker employers."
MEDIA CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president 780-218-9888