Agreement on temp workers

Alberta's jobs minister and a provincial labour leader found themselves in the unusual position of partly agreeing with each other at a forum in Edmonton on temporary foreign workers.

Both say they want to see a system that allows workers to become permanent residents.

Gil McGowan of the Alberta Federation of Labour told the forum that he has written federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to request that all temporary foreign workers who are currently in Canada be allowed to stay.

Jobs Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, meanwhile, says he wants to see an improved temporary foreign worker program that allows workers to become permanent residents.

Kenney announced a moratorium on hiring new temporary foreign workers in the food service industry last month.

The forum was hosted by Migrante Alberta, a migrant workers advocacy group, and a number of people in the audience were temporary foreign workers with concerns about how long they can remain in Canada.

"Thousands of people have come to this country in good faith. You've done nothing wrong," McGowan told the forum, which was held in a lecture theatre at the University of Alberta.

McGowan said the temporary foreign workers program should end for low-wage jobs because the workers lack basic rights which could allow them to organize for better pay. That keeps pay for everyone —Canadians and foreign workers — low.

"I have sometimes been accused of stoking the animosity between (Canadians and foreign workers). I don't have a problem with the people in the program. I have a problem with the program itself," he told the forum.

"In an economy as hot as Alberta's, you deserve more than $11 an hour."



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