Temporary Foreign Workers a "Lose-Lose" Proposition

EDMONTON-The Alberta Federation of Labour, Alberta's largest labour organization, released today a formal policy statement on the controversial issue of temporary foreign workers. The statement is jointly crafted by the 31 unions affiliated to the AFL, including some of Alberta's largest unions. (Read the Statement)

"The labour movement is saying three things today," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "First, employers are using temporary foreign workers as a way to suppress wages and working conditions and to avoid legitimate unions. Second, temporary foreign workers should be the last option for solving labour supply issues. We should be ensuring Canadians are properly trained first - so they can take advantage of existing job opportunities. "

"Third, the labour movement contends that the most fundamental rights of foreign workers are not protected in Canada- contrary to government and employer claims."

The entire temporary workers program has insufficient checks and balances according to McGowan. "Temporary foreign workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to their fragile legal status in Canada, and the labour movement insists upon far better monitoring and enforcement in the program," says McGowan.

The central position of the labour movement is best articulated by the following passage from the policy statement:

"We believe both levels of government should allow employers to use temporary foreign workers as only as a last resort, and that, when they are in Canada, foreign workers should enjoy the same rights as Canadian workers."

"It is critical to note that the labour movement strongly supports immigration and believes that immigrant workers should be entitled to have access to the full rights and privileges of all other Canadian workers.  However, we oppose the importation of hundreds of workers just to complete a job and then sending them back home. That is exploitation.

The policy statement further discusses the motivations for the use of temporary foreign workers and explores policy options for addressing the tight labour market using Canadians currently underemployed or unemployed. The AFL says the primary motivation for CNRL and other companies to use temporary foreign workers is to avoid signing contracts with Canadian unions and to prevent wages and working conditions from naturally rising during periods of tight labour supply.

"The bottom line for the labour movement is to urge Albertans to not believe the hype," says McGowan. "We can find a way to meet our booming employment needs, ensure that Canadians have the skills and training they need, and protect the rights of immigrants and foreign workers."

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For more information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL President  @  (780) 915-4599 (cell)


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