The temporary workforce

Alberta Federation of Labour wants an end to program

The Alberta Federation of Labour says temporary foreign workers (TFW) filled a quarter of new jobs in Alberta in the first six months of 2013 and nearly 65 per cent of jobs created in the province in 2012 based on statistics from Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Statistics Canada.

“The Alberta Labour market grew by slightly more than 81000 jobs but during the same period a little bit more than 21000 temporary foreign workers were brought into the province” says Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) president Gil McGowan. With 104000 unemployed Albertans as of October McGowan argues that the government cannot justify importing temporary labourers.

“There are those who say that temporary foreign workers are necessary because Albertans are unwilling to do certain jobs. But for us that argument simply doesn’t hold water” says McGowan. “Many of the temporary foreign workers are being brought in to the province to fill relatively high-skilled jobs particularly in the construction trade. I find it hard to believe that Canadians find those jobs undesirable because they pay well…. It’s easy for employers to say that no one wants to do work in the low-wage service sector but before we start flooding the market with temporary foreign workers we should require that employers do what the market is telling them to do which is raise wages in order to make those jobs more attractive. The federal government shouldn’t be in the business of helping service sector employers keep wages low.”

In 2003 109000 people came to Canada through the TFW program with 10 per cent of those employed in Alberta. By 2012 338000 TFWs entered the country with 20 per cent destined for Alberta.

“These numbers suggest that we are becoming a province that has developed an unhealthy reliance on low-income workers brought into the province through the temporary foreign worker program” McGowan says.

The AFL has renewed its call on the federal government to cancel the TFW program and replace it with one that brings necessary workers to live and work in Canada permanently.