Group says foreign worker program wrongly used to fill low-skill jobs

EDMONTON — A labour group is calling for a review of a federal program designed to help employers quickly hire temporary foreign workers for high-skill jobs.

EDMONTON — A labour group is calling for a review of a federal program designed to help employers quickly hire temporary foreign workers for high-skill jobs.

The Alberta Federation of Labour says since the program was announced last April, more than 2,400 permits have been approved to hire foreign workers for low-skill service industry positions.

Federation president Gil McGowan says access to information documents show the employers include fast-food restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations.

“You look down this list, and it’s McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, A&W, Subway,” McGowan said Tuesday.

“Are we supposed to believe that these are ’high-skill’ employment opportunities?”

Some of the other businesses listed in the documents include The Big Moo Ice Cream Parlour in Alberta, Burger King in British Columbia and Pizza Express in Ontario.

McGowan said the permits are being used to replace Canadian workers and drive down wages.

He has sent a letter, along with the documents, to federal auditor general Michael Ferguson. It asks for an audit of the government’s approval process.

Alyson Queen, director of communications for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, said in an email that the department is “very concerned.”

“Officials are investigating and will look into any evidence that the program is being misused,” she said.

“The program exists to address real and acute labour shortages in certain sectors and regions across the country on a temporary basis. It was never meant to replace Canadians with foreign workers.”