TFW Sunshine list needed to protect Canadian workers

Canadians deserve transparency, but Harper Government making it easier to hide TFW abuses

Edmonton – In the wake of a series of scandals that have seen Canadians losing their jobs to exploited and underpaid workers from overseas — most recently 65 workers at Imperial Oil’s Kearl Lake oilsands site — the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) is calling for a sunshine list to expose abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

“Canadians deserve transparency, especially when there are clear examples of Canadians losing good jobs because of this Program,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “However, even as Canadians have been outraged by the latest example of Canadians losing their jobs because of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the government has made moves to make sure future abuses of the program never come to light.”

Lists of employers who have been approved to hire workers through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program obtained through access to information requests have been a primary source for Canadians and journalists to uncover details about the Program. The officials overseeing these requests have recently imposed stringent new guidelines that have led to up to half those lists being redacted.

“We don’t know and as the government closes ranks around access to information with respect to TFWs, we may never know how many Canadians are being displaced by the Temporary Foreign Worker program,” McGowan said.

On Tuesday, Feb. 4, 65 Ironworkers employed by Pacer-Promec Joint Ventures at Imperial Oil’s Kearl Lake oilsands site were told they were no longer employed there. Their jobs were then taken over by Temporary Foreign Workers earning about half what they had been making.

“The Government has now made abuses like the one we saw last week easier to get away with,” McGowan said. “The sixty five Canadian workers who lost their jobs last week are just the tip of the iceberg. And rather than giving Canadians the public inquiry they deserve, the government is putting up roadblocks to make it harder to investigate the program.”

Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney have made pledges to rein in the abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker program. In a letter to Minister Kenney, the Alberta Federation of Labour called on the conservative government to commit to three actions that would bring more transparency on the Temporary Foreign Worker program:

  1. Make available a full list of all employers holding a work permit for a Temporary Foreign Worker. In technical terms, this means an online searchable database of all active Labour Market Opinions (LMOs), Accelerated Labour Market Opinions (ALMOs), and employers using the Alberta Pilot Project or any Pilot Projects being test-driven in other provinces, along with number of workers, job classifications and base wages.
  2. Publish a database of primary worksites where Temporary Foreign Workers are employed.
  3. Forge a federal-provincial agreement for on-site inspections of worksites employing TFWs.

“Let’s let the sun shine on this program,” McGowan said. “Many employers who are not abusing the program are put at a disadvantage by the lack of transparency around this program. I would think they would welcome our proposal.”


AFL Backgrounder: Sunshine List for TFW Program


Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail