Use of "disposable" foreign workers continues to spiral out of control in Alberta

    Number of TFWs in province more than doubles in two years - no other
    province has seen such dramatic increases

    EDMONTON, July 23 /CNW/ - The number of workers being brought into
Alberta under the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program continues to spiral
upward, according to figures quietly posted on the federal government's
Citizenship and Immigration website late last week.
    In 2006, Alberta became the first province in Canada to bring more
workers into the country under the TFW program than under the mainline
immigration program. In 2007, that troubling trend accelerated with the number
of TFWs growing to nearly double the number of new immigrants coming to the
    The official figures show that, as of December 1, 2007, there were 
37,257 temporary foreign workers in Alberta. That's up from 22,105 in 2006,
15,836 in 2005 and a mere 7,288 in 1997.
    To put it another way: there are now more than twice as many TFWs in
Alberta today than there were two years ago and more than five times as many
as a decade ago. While Ontario and B.C. are still home to more TFWs (82,873
and 43,375 in 2007 respectively), no other province has experienced as
dramatic an increase as Alberta.
    "The floodgates have been opened by the federal and Alberta governments,"
says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "It's now
clear that the ever-increasing use of exploitable guest workers has become a
central plank in the Tories' strategy to deal with the tight labour market in
    McGowan says the problem with relying on temporary foreign workers to
deal with labour shortages is that they are much more vulnerable to abuse and
exploitation than Canadian citizens or immigrants on the path to citizenship.
    "We have to be clear about what's going on here," says McGowan. "The TFW
program is not immigration. The people brought into the country under the
program are not being treated like previous generations of workers who came to
Canada from abroad. Many of them are being misled and taken advantage of by
unscrupulous brokers and employers. And the vast majority of them will never
become citizens - even though they come to Canada with that goal. We're in the
process of creating a vast underclass of disposable workers."
    Since creating its own advocacy office for TFWs in April 2007, the AFL
has played a leading role in exposing the abuses faced by many foreign workers
when they arrive in Alberta. Pressure from the AFL and other concerned groups
has led the Alberta government to establish its own modest advocate program
for TFWs and, more recently, to free up some money to help provide settlement
services for TFWs.
    "The Alberta government has lately been attempting to paper over some of
the big holes left in the Temporary Foreign Worker program by the federal
government," says McGowan. "But these are little more than band-aid solutions.
The real problem is that guest worker programs are bad public policy, no
matter how you dress them up."
    What's needed, says McGowan, is something that Conservatives in Ottawa
and Edmonton never bothered to do before they dramatically expanded the TFW
program - and that's public debate.
    "The TFW program is a train wreck. It's bad for foreign workers and it's
bad for Canada. What we need is an open and wide-ranging public debate about
the best solutions for Canada's long-term labour force needs. And that debate
needs to involve more than just backroom consultations with CEOs looking for a
quick and easy fix to their labour force problems."

    To view the complete figures on temporary foreign workers and traditional
immigrants released recently by Citizenship and Immigration Canada visit the
following web addresses:

    Stock of Temporary Foreign Workers, 2003-2007, by Provinces and Major
    Urban Areas

    Permanent Residents by Province and Major Urban Area, 1998-2007

For further information:

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

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Alberta Federation of Labour

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