Trade Unions Not Happy With Foreign Workers, 24 March 2005

Trade unions not happy with foreign workers

CALGARY With thousands of unemployed, skilled labourers in the province, companies shouldn't be allowed to bring foreign-trained workers in, the province's largest trade union says.

Ottawa is allowing Ledcor Industries, a major contractor for Suncor, to bring 680 foreign-trained workers into Canada to work in the oilsands.

Mark McCullough, spokesman for the Alberta Trade Councils, says the province should work to make sure its own residents and he estimates there are 5,000 currently without jobs trained to do the work in question are employed first.

“We have more people available than the demand is there,” McCullough said.

He says part of the problem is that the Christian Labour Association of Canada, whose workers Ledcor uses, undercuts his union's salaries by up to $14 an hour.

“And they unfortunately can't attract the number and quality of work that the owner needs, so rather than going to people who have the quality and competent people available, the government is working with the owners and contractors to go offshore to find more cheap labour.”

Liberal labour critic Dan Backs says the provincial government should make sure residents have jobs before companies are allowed to go to other countries.

“Will this government rescind any approvals to date until all unemployed Albertans and Canadians are put to work?” he asked during Question Period.

Human Resources Minister Mike Cardinal said the approval process for foreign workers lies with the federal government.