Union leader challenges Monte "Open-the-Floodgates" Solberg to justify latest expansion of Temporary Foreign Worker program

    Government shouldn't be in the business of helping keep wages down, says

    EDMONTON, Sept. 27 /CNW/ - Just because more and more employers are
clamoring for access to easy-to-exploit temporary foreign workers doesn't mean
the government should ignore the broader public interest and give them what
they want.
    That was the message of a strongly-worded letter sent today by Alberta
Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan to federal Human Resources minister
Monte Solberg.
    McGowan was responding to a new pilot program announced this week aimed
at making it even easier for employers in Alberta and B.C. to bring foreign
temporary workers into the country.
    In the letter, McGowan pointed out that the federal government already
dramatically lowered the bar for employers in November 2006 when the
introduced the now-notorious "Lists of Occupations Under Pressure" for Alberta
and B.C.
    Under those changes, any employer looking to fill jobs that appear on the
list has essentially been able to skip over steps in the application process
aimed at proving they have actually tried to find people locally.
    "When I heard about the latest move to expand the program, the first
question that sprang to mind was: hasn't the government already given
employers everything they asked for" says McGowan. "When exactly is enough
    McGowan scoffed at promises made by Solberg that measures would be
implemented "in the coming year" to introduce protections aimed at
discouraging abuse and exploitation of temporary foreign workers.
    "Shouldn't mechanisms for 'monitoring and compliance' be put in place
before, not after, you open the door to thousands of new workers" he asked.
    McGowan agreed that a growing number of employers, especially in the
restaurant and hospitality sector, are having a hard time finding people
willing to work for the wages that they're used to paying. But he argued that
"government shouldn't be in the business of helping employers keep wages
    "Basic economics tells us that the first response of employers to
tightening labour markets should be to make their jobs more attractive and
introduce labour-saving innovations," wrote McGowan.
    "But instead of doing that, more and more employers are turning to your
government for a quick fix - and you're bending over backwards to give it to
them ... I would argue that your efforts ... distort the labour market,
discourage innovation, act as a disincentive for businesses to invest in
training and put a drag on wages for Canadians. I would also argue that your
efforts represent an illegitimate use of the government's legislative power."
    McGowan concluded by saying that the real solution to Canada's labour
force challenges lie with education and meaningful immigration reform.
    "I'm going to start calling the minister Monte 'Open the Floodgates'
Solberg," said McGowan. "He's deliberately turning what was a trickle of
temporary workers into a disturbing torrent. And he's doing that without a
broad public debate and without any evidence that this approach is really in
the long-term best interest of Canadians."

    To view the full text of the AFL letter to Human Resources Minister
Solberg, visit the Federation website: www.afl.org.

For further information:

For further information: Gil McGowan, AFL President, at (780) 218-9888

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Alberta Federation of Labour

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