What's all the fuss about foreign workers?

Three Issues Intertwine to Create Powderkeg in Fort McMurray

In recent weeks, Albertans' TV screens and newspapers have flickered with trades workers rallying, marching and protesting against "foreign workers" in the oilsands. One woman walked from Fort McMurray to Edmonton to highlight the problem. The stories never garner the front page, but the issue doesn't seem to be fading away either.

Quite understandably, most Albertans are probably scratching their heads wondering what all the fuss is about? Is this just a group of privileged unionists using xenophobia to keep out newcomers? Or is this a case of employers finding new ways to undercut their wage costs? How is a citizen to make sense of it all?

This is a complex issue that has become oversimplified. As a result, the real issues are being drowned out by a cacophony of charged rhetoric. It is time to take a step back and look at what is really involved.

It is really three issues that intertwine to create a labour relations powderkeg in Fort McMurray.

By Jason Foster
AFL Staff
June 2006

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