Alberta, feds team up with pilot project to get Albertans back to work

Employers cannot hire temporary foreign workers in 29 occupations
||Last Updated: 04/21/2017
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in Ottawa on Nov. 29, 2016. [photos] REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Alberta and the federal governments are teaming up with a program designed to help get Albertans back to work.

A new Employer Liaison Service will be piloted over 24 months and is meant to provide targeted and enhanced recruitment support to employers to hire Albertans, rather than temporary foreign workers.

The initial focus will be on high-skilled workers in sectors with higher rates of unemployment. To support this effort, 29 high-wage occupations that have a sufficient local labour supply have been jointly identified and placed on a new “Refusal to Process” list under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

“We’re putting Albertans first in line for available jobs across the province. By helping more people get work, we will strengthen Alberta’s economy,” said Patty Hajdu, minister of employment, workforce development and labour.

To find and hire unemployed Albertans, employers will have access to labour market information and better support to take advantage of existing federal and provincial services, said the federal government.

Additional measures under the TFWP will include updating the existing six per cent rule quarterly, which is a refusal to process for certain occupations in the accommodations and food services and retail trade sectors where the unemployment rate in an economic region is six per cent or greater.

The Alberta Construction Association applauded the pilot program.

“Construction employs approximately one in nine working Albertans. Our members employ Albertans in communities across the province. We believe in hiring Albertans first, Canadians next and foreign workers as a last resort,” said Chris Ambrozic, senior vice-chair of the Alberta Construction Association.

Additional ways to keep Albertans first in line for jobs will also be considered, including opportunities for people who are underrepresented in the workforce, such as Indigenous peoples, youth, newcomers and persons with disabilities.

The governments will continue to collaborate to increase awareness and promotion of the Work-Sharing Program for employers directly or indirectly affected by the economic downturn. The program is a federal adjustment measure designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is temporary reduction in the normal level of business activity that is beyond the control of the employer.

Alberta is the largest user of Work-Sharing in Canada, said the federal government. Between April 1, 2016, and March 30, 2017, there were 747 active agreements underway in Alberta assisting over 12,076 employees.

Alberta’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.4 per cent in March 2017. This rate was up 0.1 percentage points from the previous month (8.3 per cent in February 2017). 

As of December 2016, Alberta had the third highest number of EI recipients in Canada (97,870). The number of EI recipients is up 54.8 per cent compared to December 2015.

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