Tell Ottawa to scrap the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
in the construction industry.
As an Ironworker from a Metis background with deep family connections to the trade, Al Lavallee has spent his career proud of his work and proud of his family. In fact, when working on the Millennium Line for Skytrain, Al got to work alongside four uncles, two brothers and three cousins. Within his family, there is more than 450 years of service to the Ironworking trade!
Al has seen the cost of living in the Lower Mainland just keep going up. So he knows that for him and his family who work as Iron Workers to enjoy the same standard of living, their wages have to go up too.
And that’s the problem with the Temporary Foreign Worker program: by allowing companies to use TFWs to drive down the wages paid to Ironworkers, Al knows his younger family members won’t be able to enjoy the same quality of life he has had thanks to the trade. And while he is starting to think about the pension he’s earned, he knows that both his younger family members and the TFWs may not get that benefit.
In August of last year, Diana left her 15 years in corporate IT to become an Ironworker – but that wasn’t the only big change this year: Diana is also pregnant!
As a woman working in a traditionally male-dominated trade, Diana has loved how accepted she has been on the job by her fellow Ironworkers. All you have to do to fit in is do the work, she says. Diana is currently a “rod buster” – an Iron Worker who works with the rebar that goes into concrete structures – at the waster treatment facility being built in North Vancouver.
Diana’s concern about Temporary Foreign Workers is – not surprisingly – about the impact TFWs have on the wages earned by her and her co-workers. With many Canadians in skilled trades looking for work, Diana worries that bringing in TFWs just drives down the wages and the available jobs for her and her family.
Allowing wealthy companies to undercut that value by paying TFWs lower wages makes her wonder about being able to meet rising costs of living for her young family.
Amy has been a structural Ironworker since last August. That means she focuses on work like bridges, structural steel and “bolt ups” – connecting steel girders at height on construction sites.
Although starting out as an Ironworkers was tough – Amy was originally afraid of heights and for the first couple weeks kept discovering muscles she didn’t know she had – she says that the Ironworkers have provided great training and a great team with which to work. It’s the people that make the work fun, she says, and the work that makes it rewarding.
Amy knows that Temporary Foreign Workers put that at risk: not only do TFWs undercut the wages that Ironworkers have worked and negotiated hard to get, they can also be a safety risk on site.
But most of all, Amy knows bringing in TFWs when there are so many young Ironworkers like her ready, willing and able to do the work is just unfair to those Canadian workers looking to build their careers.