TFW Pilot Project Oversight ‘fell between the cracks’

Work permits that allowed unqualified workers to create unsafe conditions must be revoked

Edmonton – According to the architects of the disastrous TFW Pilot Project, the buck stops nowhere.

Follow-up investigation of the Alberta Occupation-Specific Pilot Project – a fast-track TFW scheme that has led to serious safety concerns in the oil patch – has found that oversight of the program fell into the cracks between federal and provincial jurisdictions.

“They were asleep at the wheel, and they’ve put lives at risk,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “The TFW permits given to companies that have put unqualified workers in unsafe jobs must be revoked.”

As revealed on Monday, employers in Alberta’s oil patch were allowed to bring in hundreds of unqualified temporary foreign workers under the Occupation-Specific Pilot Project.

Under the Pilot, employer applications to Citizenship and Immigration Canada needed to include an approval letter from Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training. The approval letter was based on a declaration of the number of hours the worker had worked, signed by an ‘employer.’ With no practical way to verify the legitimacy of the declaration, it was possible for unscrupulous TFW recruitment agencies to abuse the system.

“The province has few ways to verify overseas work experience declarations when rubber-stamping applications, and the federal government seems unwilling to ensure guest workers are qualified,” McGowan said. “They’re like a pilot and co-pilot on a 747, each of them reading a newspaper, while assuming that the other one has the controls. Well, Canadians now know that yet again, their country is off course.”

When it began, the Pilot was originally just for the steamfitter/pipefitter occupation, but was expanded in September 2012 to include six additional occupations. Earlier this year, the Pilot was ended as part of the government’s changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, but the work permits are still in place and several thousand workers brought in through the Pilot are still at Alberta worksites.

“Alberta has been lobbying the federal government to give them more control over the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and to re-open the Occupation-Specific Pilot Project,” McGowan said. “Albertans shouldn’t stand for it, now that they know how deeply negligent this government has been in putting unqualified migrant workers into dangerous situations.”

“This isn’t the first time the Harper Government has launched a fast-track stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and it isn’t the first time their attempt has caused a scandal,” McGowan said, noting that the fast-track Accelerated Labour Market Opinion program had to be abandoned because of a scandal in April, 2013. “They’re not learning from their mistakes. Don’t be surprised when they rename, recreate and re-launch another way to give employers the ability to circumvent the Canadian labour market.”

AFL Backgrounder: Alberta Pilot for Occupation-Specific Work Permits



Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via e-mail