Expanding TFW program an attack on workers, says labour group

A reasonable pace of oil-sands development would mean more jobs for Albertans, says AFL

Calls to expand the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program in Alberta are a move to unfairly drive down the wages earned by working Albertans, says the province's largest labour group.

"Blowing the doors off the TFW program is not the solution that Alberta needs," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, which represents 145,000 workers.

"Only six months ago, in a report titled Impact of the TFW Program on the Labour Market in Alberta, the Alberta government recognized that the TFW program was bad for our economy. We could soon have 100,000 TFWs in Alberta. How many more do we need?"

In September 2011, Conservative MLA Teresa Woo-Paw said in the report: "... I have concluded that we cannot continue to use the TFW Program to fulfil our province's long-term labour shortages. Doing so has significant, negative impacts for the long-term growth of our economy. Although temporary foreign workers (TFWs) have a place in our economy, the TFW program is not a long-term solution to Alberta's labour market needs."

The AFL president offered real solutions to the labour shortage, rather than the expansion of the TFW plan sought by a coalition of business groups including the Alberta Chamber of Commerce and the Alberta Enterprise Group.

"The government need only follow the advice of former Premier Peter Lougheed and set a more reasonable pace of development in the oil sands. Instead of approving dozens of oil-sands projects at once, a reasonable pace of development would create more value for Albertans, keep the cost of development down for oil-sands companies and mean that the labour needs could be met by the existing labour force in Canada," says McGowan.

"Not only would we have enough workers, we'd be creating good jobs and long-term jobs for Albertans for decades, instead of creating short-term jobs for TFWs," he says.

"However, these short-sighted groups prefer to focus on expanding the TFW program as a means to drive down labour costs. They want to pay workers less, even while the cost of living in Alberta is rising faster than other parts of Canada. Not happy with the massive profits they already make, they want to make even more by paying workers less," he says.

"It's not rocket science. The cure for an overheated market is not to throw more wood on the fire, it is to cool things down."


Media Contact:

  • Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888. McGowan will be at PSAC rally at Canada Place, 9700 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, at noon today.

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