The Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program is so dysfunctional that it needs to be scrapped, rather than reviewed and reformed, says the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).
"We welcome the announcement that the province is renewing funding for agencies to protect temporary foreign workers, but this $850,000 sum should be put in context," says Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer of the AFL, which represents 140,000 Albertans.
"How effective will $850,000 be when it is spread across the whole province to protect the documented 66,000 temporary foreign workers from the exploitation and abuse we witness on a daily basis? How effective will it be in protecting the tens of thousands of undocumented foreign workers who are becoming an underground workforce and are even more vulnerable to abuse?"
Almost three-quarters of employers of temporary foreign workers inspected by the province in the past year violated employment standards, according to documents released earlier this year by the Alberta NDP.
"We also know that many foreign workers have to pay illegal fees of thousands of dollars to recruitment agencies, are forced to work unpaid overtime and live in sub-standard housing with exorbitant rents, and are misled into thinking they will be able to apply for citizenship in Canada," says Furlong.
While the AFL also welcomes the review of the program planned by Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, the only way to fix the program is to scrap it and replace it with immigration through regular channels.
"Alberta needs these workers now and will need them in the future. All who come here to work, including low-skilled workers, should be able to get on the ladder to permanent residency and citizenship,' says Furlong. "Low-skilled workers have almost no access to apply for immigration."
The TFW program is administered by the federal government and the AFL is happy to help the Alberta government to pressure Ottawa to scrap it and replace it with real immigration that works for foreign workers, Alberta workers and Alberta employers.
Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-720-8945 (cell)