Community and Labour and Activists Demand Real Change to Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Protesters converge on Conservative cabinet minister Joe Oliver's office

TORONTO, June 10, 2013 /CNW/ - Dozens of community and labour activists converged on Conservative MP Joe Oliver's office today to demand an end to the Harper government's low-wage economic strategy and abuse of temporary foreign workers.

"The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is not a legitimate immigration policy," said Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan.

"This program allows employers to drive down wages and benefits. It exploits vulnerable workers who end up trapped in low-wage jobs with little hope of ever becoming permanent residents despite their contribution to our economy and our communities," Ryan said.

Today's protest is part of the Give Everyone A Chance for Canada's Future campaign launched by the United Steelworkers (USW). The campaign aims to raise awareness of corporate abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the role it plays in the Harper government's low-wage economic model for Canada.

"We've seen first-hand the impact that this program is having on our communities," said Nigel Barriffe, a member of the Good Jobs for All Coalition that works to improve living and working conditions in the Toronto area.

"Our community stands with labour on this issue," Barriffe said. "It's a partnership that's going to defeat Joe Oliver and this ridiculous Conservative movement that has been killing good jobs here in Canada."

The Harper government's recent changes to the TFWP amount to window dressing that will not address widespread abuse of the program, said Ken Neumann, the USW's National Director.

"By gutting the public sector, the Conservatives are ensuring there will be no meaningful oversight and no real change to this wage-suppression program," Neumann said. "Low-wage, highly vulnerable workers from abroad will continue to be exploited and denied full legal protections and a clear path to citizenship."

Abdi Dirshe, director of outreach of the iTaxiworkers association that represents hundreds of immigrants, denounced the abuses of the TFWP.

"As an immigrant, when I came here I was in the same situation," Dirshe said. "Workers come here and they have no rights. They should be able to join unions, so they are not isolated, so they are not exploited continually.

"Workers, whether they're immigrants or not, are under attack by the Harper government. The policies the Harper government is advancing are undercutting the rights of workers."

The TFWP's expansion and policies such as cuts to Employment Insurance are part of the Harper Conservatives' deliberate strategy for a low-wage economic model for Canada, said John Cartwright, President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council.

"These are absolutely connected, because they want workers earning lower wages," Cartwright said.

Demonstrators denounced the Conservatives and their corporate allies for shirking their responsibility to invest in training programs at a time of high unemployment, particularly among youth and aboriginal communities.

"The Harper government has abandoned its responsibility to protect Canadians and ensure that highly vulnerable workers from abroad are not exploited," said Carolyn Egan, President of the United Steelworkers Toronto Area Council.

"We are demanding justice for all workers," Egan said. "We are demonstrating outside Joe Oliver's office because he is a key member of the Harper cabinet that works in tandem with multinational corporations to push their low-wage economic strategy for Canada."

For more information on Give Everyone A Chance for Canada's Future, go to www.everyoneschance.ca.

SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information:

Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, 416-544-5951
Jackie Edwards, USW Strategic Campaigns, 416-544-5962, 416-886-0962, jedwards@usw.ca
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca


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