Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

"Industry refutes allegations of widespread mistreatment of temporary foreign workers"

This article is put out by the "Journal of Commerce", and is a taste of the lengths that the system is going to in order to create the vast slavery pool that is the "Temporary Foreign Worker" program. Take note of their "explanations". Keep in mind that if the goals for production -- five times current levels, as spelled out by the Security and Prosperity Partnership [SPP]-- are to even be considered, TENS OF THOUSANDS of such workers will be needed for all aspects of tar sands 'development'.


Industry refutes allegations of widespread mistreatment of temporary foreign workers
STAFF WRITER // Dec. 5, 2007

A federal government initiative designed to deal with the shortage of labour in Alberta is allowing employers and labour brokers to exploit vulnerable foreign workers, says a labour advocate.

An advocate hired by the Alberta Federation of Labour released a six-month report on Nov. 29, which stated that Alberta is exploiting and taking advantage of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs).

According to the report, advocate Yessy Byl has taken inquiries from more than 1,400 people and opened case files for 123 TFWs in need of assistance, since April 2007. Under the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Workers program, TFWs are employed in a wide range of economic sectors in Alberta, including oil sands operations and construction trades.

The report stated that an analysis of the 123 files handled by the advocate reveals that “many employers find it convenient and profitable to establish unfair and often immoral working and living conditions for these men and women.”

“After six months of helping foreign workers, I can only conclude that there are deep and troubling flaws in the foreign worker program. The rapid expansion of the program in the past two years has been an unqualified disaster,” Byl said in a press release.

Byl also said that the demand for the services of the Office of the Temporary Foreign Worker Advocate has been overwhelming.

“Clearly there are thousands of foreign workers needing help and have nowhere to turn,” Byl said.

Bill Stewart, vice-president of Merit Contractors Association of Alberta said that the problem is not as big as it appears.

“I think there are some isolated cases of abuse, but when you put it into the number of workers in the entire program, 123 cases is a tempest in a teapot. Everyone knows there have been abuses, but they are not widespread.”

According to figures from the federal department of Citizenship and Immigration, there were 22,392 temporary foreign workers in Alberta in 2006, which is more than double the 11,067 workers who were in the province in 2003.

The 2006 figure for temporary foreign workers in Alberta is greater than the 20,717 immigrants granted permanent resident status in the province that year.

This marks the first time that there are more temporary workers than traditional immigrants.

The trend shows no sign of slowing down. Employers in Alberta requested 1,957 workers in May 2006, but a year later they requested 8,186 workers.

The majority of the files handled by the advocate were cases of the TFW being paid less, often substantially less, than their Canadian co-workers.

These workers were also made to work excessive overtime with no overtime pay.

About one-third of the workers in the cases were provided with poor quality housing and charged excessive rents.

Many employers engage in the practice of renting a single house or apartment owned by the employers to multiple TFWs.

In many cases the rent was deducted directly from the TFWs cheque, allowing no opportunity for negotiation. Of the 123 cases handled by the advocate, 89 were brought to Canada by labour brokers, who charged illegal fees, which ranged from $3,000 to $10,000.

Brokers also made misleading promises to lure TFWs to Canada.

In some cases, the TFW continued to be the employee of the broker after their arrival in Canada. This practice allowed the broker to continue to receive a portion of their wages. The TFWs who complained about these practices were threatened by employers with imprisonment and deportation.

A number of recommendations came out of the report.

“The expanded TFW program must cease and be reverted to its original, pre-2002 purpose and process. Instead, the immigration system should be reformed and make permanent immigration more accessible and efficient,” it states.

Stewart said he does not believe there is a lot of substance to this recommendation.

“To conclude the whole program is a failure is politics on their (AFL’s) part,” he said. “There is $220 billion worth of projects on the books in Alberta. We can’t ignore the need for TFWs to help us build projects on time and on budget. Going back to 2002 is not possible. To deny that TFWs are part of the solution is burying your head in the sand.”


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