Influx of Migrant Workers Open Door to Abuse
Posted by mhudema on July 17, 2008
Western Canada’s construction boom, spurred on by the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and oil sands development in Alberta, has led to a massive increase in foreign temporary workers coming to the region.The government agency Statistics Canada reports that for the 12-month period ending in March, international migration was the main factor driving population growth in Alberta, making it the fastest growing province in Canada.
Local governments have increased temporary work visas to deal with demand, but also have been criticised by labour unions for not addressing structural issues such as the exploitative relationships which result often between employers and foreign workers. It currently takes two years before a foreign worker can obtain landed immigrant status, forcing some to work in less than ideal working conditions in order to obtain the permit which can lead to eventual citizenship.
There are now 2,000 to 3,000 temporary workers and thousands more in the underground economy in British Columbia (BC), according to Joe Barrett with the BC and Yukon Building Trades Council. Growth in BC’s construction sector has increased from 80,000 jobs in 2001 to 140,000 today. Most migrant workers are employed in residential construction. Others are involved in industrial construction in Alberta, mostly associated with the northern tar sands project.