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REPORT: Canadian Employment Minister Has Ignored Temp Worker Prevailing Wage for Years

Canadian Employment Minister, Jason Kenney.

Canadian Employment Minister, Jason Kenney.

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The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) says that information gathered from federal information requests shows 224 cases in which businesses in the province were allowed to break the law by paying temporary foreign workers below the prevailing wage.  The news comes days after the man in charge of the program,  Employment Minister Jason Kenney, banned restaurants from participating in the program following a damning study of its abuses released by the C.D. Howe Institute.  

Abuses of the program are also occurring at hotels, gas stations, casinos, convenience stores, greenhouses, feedlots and nurseries.  AFL President Gil McGowan has requested that the federal government suspend the program until an investigation can be completed by the auditor general.  McGowan has also called on Kenney to resign:

“Minister Kenney has now banned the use of temporary foreign workers in food services,” McGowan said Friday. “But while the food service industry may be the worst offender, it is by no mean the only industry that has been using the program to displace Canadians and drive down wages.”

Reacting to the study, Kenney claimed that “only a small number of businesses were abusing the program.”  But the AFL’s information suggests otherwise, showing a problem that is spread across many industries and has led to unemployment in Alberta and British Columbia. McGowan’s request for resignation stems from the fact that these permits for the use of temporary foreign workers were granted with full knowledge of rule-breaking regarding prevailing wages.  He told the Edmonton Journal:

The federal government should check the to ensure wages proposed in the application conform to the rules “but Kenney refuses to police this program,” McGowan said.

“This is a troubling picture in Alberta and potentially affects thousands of workers ” as each permit can cover a number of workers, heKenney failed to keep two promises when he expanded the program — to ensure Canadians would not be replaced and Canadian wages would not be under cut, McGowan said.

“The failure lies at the feet of the Harper government. Kenney should resign.”

On Monday, Kenney was subject to questioning by the House of Commons. Several politicians placed blame for the program’s failure directly on Kenney.  NDP leader Tom Mulcair questioned Kenney’s motives throughout the session, making the damning claim that the federal government has known about these abuses for years:

The minister has been responsible for the temporary foreign worker program for the past six years,” NDP leader Tom Mulcair said during question period.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has publicly maligned companies who import workers with “the intention of never having them be permanent and moving the whole workforce back to another country at the end of a job,” Mulcair continued.

“The prime minister has had this figured out for some time but why, in the six years the minister has been taking care of the program, has he never figured it out?”


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