Province roasted over list of temporary foreign workers that could call Canada home
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EDMONTON - The province is under fire for using a confidential, internal list of “priority occupations” to determine which temporary foreign workers could stay here permanently.
The provincial nominee program — the last shot for temporary foreign workers to get permanent residency in Alberta — used an internal list of 34 occupations last fall to help select workers after abandoning its first-come, first-serve approach to applications.
The list, obtained by the Journal, included a few low-skilled jobs, such as light duty cleaners and hotel clerks, along with civil engineers, steamfitters, computer programmers, heavy duty equipment mechanics and university professors.
The province should be open about how it chooses its immigrants, said Clarizze Truscott of the Temporary Foreign Workers Support Coalition.
Keeping the list of priority jobs confidential was not fair to employers or workers trying assess their chances of being accepted, Truscott said.
“If there is no transparency, the question is, is the government deciding on the basis of who lobbied most?” asked Truscott, who heard about the list months ago.
If the government prefers to keep mostly skilled workers, it should say so and also explain to the public how it arrived at those priority categories, she said
The list of 34 “priority occupations” was briefly posted last fall on the website of the Department of Jobs, Skills Training and Labour, department spokeswoman Ogho Ikhalo said.
The list “was merely a temporary internal guideline to assist” the department in choosing the final 1,200 spots in the 2014 provincial nominee program, Ikhalo said.
At the time, the government announced it would begin to choose provincial nominees based on “labour market information.”
The list of specific “priority occupations” was spotted on the website by some TFWs, many of whom were desperately trying to figure out if they have any chance of being accepted for the provincial nominee program that has 5,500 spots each year.
At the time, thousands of unskilled TFWs were encouraged to apply, along with skilled and professional workers.
The internal list notes that there were many more applicants than spaces in 2014. Yessy Byl, a lawyer working with TFWs, said the province should be clear if it is seeking more skilled workers for provincial nominees.
“If you are ruling some people out, just say so,” said Byl, adding that TFWs have been talking about the list for months. “It’s so unkind to keep people hanging at this stage.”
Byl praised the provincial government for giving a year-long extension to a select group of more than 1,000 temporary foreign workers after reaching an agreement with the federal government last month to help employers.
“But the question is — are they selecting those workers according to that priority list or some other criteria?” Byl asked
Ikhalo declined to offer reasons for pulling the list quickly off the website.
The goal of the list was to “to ensure more industries could benefit” as the province made its selection of workers, she said in an email.
The internal list no longer exists, she added.
“Certain occupations like transport truck drivers, welders and related machine operators, and construction managers received increased attention,” last fall, she added.
The department is currently choosing workers for the 2015 quota of 5,500 nominees based on three criteria — “labour market information, industry general averages in recent years, and evidence of high levels of job shortages.”
The department is “in the early stages” of contacting TFWs who can stay for the one year extension, she added.
“We remain steadfast in our position that Canadians are hired first.”
The 2014 internal list of “priority occupations” for the provincial nominee program included the following: machine operators and labourers in food and beverage processing, industrial meat cutters, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers, transport truck drivers, plasterers and drywallers, welders, steamfitters, pipefitters, sprinkler system installers, drafting technologists and technicians.
The list includes university professors and lecturers and a wide range of engineering jobs — civil, mechanical, chemical and petroleum engineers and engineering managers and construction managers.
Also on the list were mechanical engineer technologists and technicians, electrical and electronics engineering, chemical technologists, heavy duty equipment mechanics, shippers and receivers and supervisors, supply chain tracking and scheduling.
Construction estimators, material handlers, electrical power line and cable workers, sawmill machine operators and machine tool operators were also sought.
In health care, the list includes licensed practical nurses, nurses aides, orderlies and patient services associates, and “other assisting occupations.”
Other categories are light duty cleaners, hotel front desk clerks and automotive service technicians.
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Occupations in services - Domestic work, Natural and applied sciences and related occupations - general, Health occupations - general, and Occupations in education, law and social, community and government services - general
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