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

Teenburger, onion rings and A&W rootbeer.

laura leyshon The Globe and Mail

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 that 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 said access to information documents show these employers include fast-food restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations.

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"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?"

McGowan said Tuesday that these permits are being used to replace Canadian workers and wants the federal auditor general to investigate the government's approval process.

Under the federal Accelerated-Labour Market Opinion program, employers can pay foreign workers up to 15 per cent less than Canadian workers.

The program is designed to process permits to hire temporary foreign workers for high-skill jobs, including the skilled trades, within 10 business days.

McGowan said that just over half of the approvals are for businesses in Alberta, including 33 A&W restaurants.

"Workers who want to come to Canada should enjoy the same rights and privileges as other Canadian residents," he said in a release.

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"We shouldn't be paying them 15 per cent less than Canadians, and government shouldn't be whisking them in through an accelerated and duplicitous process."

Are you a temporary foreign worker in Canada? The Globe would like to hear from you - e-mail us at community@globeandmail.com

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