Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Alberta's Padrone Culture

While unions in Alberta have opposed the exploitation of foreign workers which is being promoted by oil companies and their pals in the provincial and federal governments it is also the unions that are fighting for these workers rights.

Exploitation of foreign workers is rife in the free wheeling padrone culture of Alberta.

An advocate for Alberta's temporary foreign workers says her phone is ringing off the hook with people who say they're being treated unfairly by their bosses.

They came for a brief taste of the Alberta Advantage, with each man saying he paid $6,000 to $12,000 up front for a chance to ply his trade for a better wage.

But they wound up with no job, their money gone, crammed 15 to a house in Mill Woods, with no legal right to work in Canada. They had no promise of help getting home and demands from their work agent for even more money, they say.

The agency, Worldwide Workforce, says the men are lying and that the thousands of dollars it did charge went to cover legitimate costs.

In the meantime, two other foreign workers, with a Chinese firm, died on one of the oilpatch projects the East Indian arrivals expected to work on.

Seven of the East Indian men are now working, after residents took them in and introduced them to the International Boilermakers Union, which found them placements with employers who had federal permission to hire temporary foreign workers. Three more may have work soon.

Employment and Immigration and Industry Minister Iris Evans tabled a letter
from Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan in the Legislature today
as proof that she's doing everything she can to protect the growing number of
foreign workers brought into Alberta under temporary work permits.

But McGowan says all the minister's stunt proves is that she really
doesn't understand how her own department functions and what challenges
temporary workers actually face when they arrive here.
McGowan says there are currently no dedicated mechanisms in place at
either the federal or provincial level to ensure that temporary foreign
workers are being treated fairly by employers. Instead, both governments
simply say temporary workers are covered by the same system of workplace rules
as domestic workers.

"The current complaint driven system is flawed for domestic Canadian
workers - but it's a disaster for temporary foreign workers," says McGowan.
"By falling back on the current system, the Minister is basically admitting
that she's not prepared to do anything to help temporary foreign workers. As a
result, she's helping to create a vast underclass of exploitable workers who
don't have access to the same kind of rights and protections in the workplace
as other workers in Canada."

CALGARY/AM770CHQR - Employment and immigration minister is telling people thinking of moving to the province to stay home unless they have a job and a place to live.
Iris Evans says she doesn't want anyone coming here with unrealistic expectations.
Her comments come as Finance Minister Lyle Oberg pondered tax incentives for developers to get more affordable housing built.
Oberg says his department will be looking at both tax incentives and tax cuts.

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