Labour leader warns that trade deal will fundamentally transform Canadian labour market
Calgary – The Trans-Pacific Partnership allows corporations to bring in unlimited exploitable foreign workers and fundamentally transforms the Canadian labour market for the worse, the leader of Alberta’s largest labour organization warned at a hearing on Tuesday.
In a presentation to the House of Commons’ International Trade Committee, Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan took aim at how the TPP would allow corporations to hire exploitable foreign workers, while ignoring qualified and unemployed Canadian workers.
“As faulty as it is, the current TFW program at least requires some evidence that the employer couldn’t hire a Canadian to do the job. The TPP lets big companies bypass even those meager safeguards. The labour mobility sections of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are like the Temporary Foreign Worker Program on steroids,” McGowan said. “This deal would fundamentally transform the Canadian labour market for the worse by creating an underclass of exploitable workers with fewer rights.”
When the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership became available, the Alberta Federation of Labour hired top labour and trade lawyers to examine the deal. In a strongly worded brief that McGowan will present to the House committee, it is made clear that the TPP is a bad deal for Canadian workers.
“Chapter 12 of the TPP … is certain to make things much tougher for many Canadian workers by allowing both domestic and foreign companies to bring foreign workers to Canada to take jobs that Canadians are ready, willing, and able to fill,” says the legal opinion prepared for the AFL by the law firm Goldblatt Partners. “If implemented, these effects will likely be immediate, severe in times of high unemployment, and because they will be entrenched in a multi-party international treaty, effectively irreversible.”
The Alberta Federation of Labour is calling on Canada’s new government not to ratify an agreement that was negotiated by the defeated Harper Government, and which is not in the best interests of working Canadians.
“The Liberals should not see themselves as bound by negotiations that were conducted by the previous government,” McGowan said. “The TPP was hammered out behind the backs of Canadians by the secretive Harper Government. It’s an example of the kind of shady practices that Canadians rejected last October. Justin Trudeau has every reason to reject this deal.”
Over the last decade, Canada’s labour market has been distorted by the increased use of guest worker programs like the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Extensive research that showed exploitation and abuse of the programs forced some reforms.
“Just when Canadians thought the problem was being solved, it’s come back in the form of this trade deal,” McGowan said. “Canadians should not be fooled into thinking ‘labour mobility’ is the same thing as immigration. It isn’t. The TPP does nothing for migrant workers other than to make them easier to exploit.”
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail email@example.com