Maple Leaf strike in Edmonton exposes buried election issue

    Federal temporary foreign worker program abused and out of control - but
    federal parties remain silent

    EDMONTON, Oct. 7 /CNW/ - Today's news that Maple Leaf Foods is abusing
temporary foreign workers at its poultry plant in Edmonton and attempting to
use them as pawns to drive wages down is yet another demonstration of the
failures of the temporary foreign worker program.
    It's also an indictment of campaigning federal politicians who won't even
acknowledge that a problem exists, says the president of the Alberta
Federation of Labour.
    "The Temporary Foreign Worker program is run by the federal government -
but not a single one of the federal leaders has made problems in the program
an issue in this campaign," says Gil McGowan.
    "Instead, the issue is being driven under ground, just like these
workers. It's a dark and ugly corner of federal bureaucracy that deserves to
have some light shed on it. I can't think of a better time to do that job than
during an election campaign. Unfortunately, people like Prime Minister Stephen
Harper don't seem to agree."
    Earlier today, the union representing striking workers at the Maple Leaf
poultry plant released information showing that many of the 98 temporary
foreign workers in the plant were promised wages of $15 - only to receive much
less when they actually started working.
    The union also said the company was housing as many as 17 temporary
workers in individual duplexes and that more TFWs were brought in as a strike
was looming in an obvious (and illegal) effort to undermine the bargaining
position of the union and the workers it represents.
    "This strike highlights the dangers of the temporary foreign worker
program," says McGowan. "Workers are brought in by companies like Maple Leaf
to work in unacceptable conditions, at low wages, and these workers are
frightened that if they complain, they will be deported."
    Despite their precarious situation - and the fact that they are obviously
being used as pawns to keep wages low - McGowan points out that over 80 of the
TFWs at the plant are actively supporting the strike.
    McGowan says that if precarious workers such as these can find the
courage to stand up and speak up, then surely our federal leaders could do the
    "We're in the final week of a federal election campaign and we need an
open and public debate to address the failures of this program," says McGowan.
"The political parties need to take a stand and tell voters how they will
prevent the creation of a permanent underclass of guest workers in Alberta and
    In a further effort to pressure the federal parties to start talking
about Canada's TFW problems, the AFL has joined with its national counterpart,
the Canadian Labour Congress, to recognize October 7 as the World Day for
Decent Work (, which is being marked with activities across the

For further information:

For further information: Gil McGowan, AFL President @ (780) 483-3021
(office) or (780) 218-9888 (cell)

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Alberta Federation of Labour

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