Alberta Federation of Labour blasts Harper for helping employers put Canadians out of work at Husky Sunrise project
Edmonton – Almost 300 Canadians are no longer working at the Husky Sunrise project near Fort McMurray because they’ve been replaced by a firm that makes extensive use of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program.
The site – located 60 kilometres north of Fort McMurray – is the workplace for more than 1,500 people. It is estimated that less than a third of those workers are Canadian.
In September, more than 270 employees of Toronto-based Black and MacDonald were told they were no longer working at the Husky Sunrise site. Italian-owned oil sands firm Saipem Canada Inc.’s, which makes extensive use of the TFW program, has since taken over the contract.
“Barely six months ago, Minister Jason Kenney was trumpeting assurances that no Canadians would lose work because of the Temporary Foreign Worker program. The events at Husky Sunrise show that, if he wasn’t lying outright, he was deeply naive to make that claim,” AFL president Gil McGowan said at a press conference today. “This just shows how broken the Temporary Foreign Worker program is – it’s lowering employment standards, it’s creating opportunities for exploitation, it’s disenfranchising workers, and it’s displacing well-trained Canadian trades people.”
Over the next months, Albertans can expect to see more cases of Canadian workers being displaced thanks to a new program that allows some employers to skip the usual process of applying for Temporary Foreign Workers. Under the Alberta Pilot for Occupation-Specific Work Permits, some employers can hire TFWs without any attempt to advertise the job locally.
“This allows employers to recruit overseas without having to consider hiring Canadians who can do the job,” McGowan said. “The government has been very secretive about this pilot program. We do not know the number of workers and their occupation utilizing this pilot project. The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) has submitted an Access to Information request to the federal government to obtain this information, but the request as yet to be fulfilled.”
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. Through a series of government documents the AFL obtained, the organization has helped pressure the Harper Government into making changes to the program, including suspending the fast-track Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (ALMO) stream.
“The minister seems oblivious to the problems that the program is causing,” McGowan said. “He announced yesterday that the government might resume the ALMO stream, despite the extensive abuse of that program the last time it was implemented. I’m actually shocked that they can’t learn from their mistakes.”
AFL Backgrounder: Husky Sunrise and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail [email protected]