Temporary Foreign Worker Program Fatally Flawed, Council told

April 9, 2010, 4:30 PM EST

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Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker program promotes the exploitation of some of the most vulnerable workers in Canada, says Yessy Byl, an Alberta Federation of Labour advocate for temporary foreign workers. She urged the labour movement and others to fight to ensure that temporary foreign workers have the same rights as any other worker in Canada.

The current program leaves workers who are desperate to stay in Canada, at the mercy of employers and open to exploitation, said Byl, a labour lawyer. Under this program, including the 'low skill' pilot project, workers must remain with a specific employer, a specific job and at a specific location.

Byl was speaking to a CAW Council resolution that calls for a moratorium on the expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker program and demands alternatives, including a fairer immigration system and a national consultation on Canada's long-range labour market needs. 

"These people have no rights to stay in Canada - they have no labour mobility rights," Byl said. She said employers use the Temporary Foreign Worker program to make a lot of money by exploiting the rights of these workers.

She said federal government policy has ensured that while regular immigration rates have flatlined, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has skyrocketed, doubling between 2004 and 2008 to 252,000.

She said the program divides workers from one another and very often promotes racism. "It sets up an 'us and them' scenario.that's not the kind of Canada we want," Byl said.

In addition the Temporary Foreign Worker program blatantly ignores the role of unions, collective bargaining rights and basic human rights. She urged union leadership to fight to ensure these workers have the same rights as other workers under a collective agreement.

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