Businesses being given temporary foreign worker permits regardless of economic need

8,600 jobs lost in 2010, but government approves whopping 22,992 TFW positions

Edmonton – Over the past four years, Alberta has brought in thousands more temporary foreign workers (TFWs) than jobs created.

In a new report, the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) compares the number of new jobs created in municipalities throughout the province to the number of temporary foreign workers arriving each year. There is no correlation; thousands of temporary foreign worker permits are being granted to businesses in good times, in bad times, and even when the economy is shedding jobs.

“The temporary foreign worker program has to be scrapped,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “Employers are clearly turning to it as a first-choice so they can hire people who have fewer legal protections, can be paid less than their Canadian counterparts, and who can be kicked out of the country if they make a fuss.”

The report, titled “From Last Resort to First Choice,” shows that throughout Alberta during the recession, the economy lost 8,600 jobs in 2010, but the government approved the hiring of 22,992 TFWs. In the big city, the situation was a bit worse, with the economy shedding 13,000 jobs in Edmonton and Calgary, but 12,995 TFWs arriving in 2010.

“Canada needs immigration — but this program isn’t immigration, it’s exploitation,” McGowan said. “Canada’s immigration system needs to be expanded and made accessible to lower-skilled immigrants. And people arriving in Canada to work should be treated the same as any other Canadians. But the TFW program gives them second-class status, and makes them beholden to employers.”

Medicine Hat may have fared worst over the past four years, shedding more than 10,000 jobs, while more TFWs arrived. Throughout the province, thousands of work permits for TFWs were issued for very small rural centres and towns in Alberta.

“It’s difficult for someone to put down roots in a community if they’re defined as temporary,” McGowan said. “They’re not going to gain long-term wage improvements from seniority, and this keeps standards down for all low-wage workers.”

“When employers get easy access to vulnerable groups of lower paid workers, wages and benefits don’t have to keep pace with economic growth,” McGowan said. “The Conservative government talks a big game about free markets, but they’re more than willing to meddle with the market when it comes to driving down wages.”

Under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, the TFW program has doubled in size, and has become a business subsidy that lets frequent users avoid increasing wages to attract workers or to invest in training.

This research clearly shows that jobs are being lost, and yet government is approving thousands of TFW permits for greedy employers who would rather not pay what the market demands.



Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email