Monday, September 9, 2013

Inclusion and exclusion of migrant workers in Fort McMurray

The Canadian Journal of Sociology recently putout a special issue addressing community in Fort McMurray. Jason Foster and Alison Taylor article entitled In the shadows: The notion of “community” for temporary foreign workers in a boomtown.

This article examines how conceptions of community and social cohesion is effected by the presence of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in the oilsands. Among the study’s conclusions are that foreign workers are excluded from the life of the community. Among the factors causing this exclusion are TFWs’ vulnerable and precarious connection to the labour market, experiences of discrimination, and conflicted transnational community identities.

Some of the quotations from the TFWs workers paint quite a compelling picture of their vulnerability and exclusion:
If you don’t have permanent residence you’re always afraid [of] everybody, afraid [of] your boss that you’ll be sent back home. You don’t have peace of mind. That’s a problem when you [are a] foreign worker, you’re always thinking before you go to sleep what will happen tomorrow, I might be sent back home. You don’t know. (15, TFW) I said, “No, because Sunday I can’t go to work because I have to go to church.” He knew that already long time ago but he insisted. “You have to work Saturday and Sunday.” I said, “No, not now.”… So he said, “You know what, I will [get] a boat and I will send you home.” (16, TFW) We were assigned on nightshift because no one likes to work at night.… Canadians don’t like to work nightshift. So we have no choice, we have to work in the night. (15, TFW)
The split identity and sense of obligations evinced by TFWs is also quite an interesting finding:
It’s really hard [to leave my family] the first time because we have this bond. It’s our culture, bonded family. For the first time it’s really hard but I’m figuring out that [my] kids are growing up and they want to go to university and I can’t let them go. That’s really hard for me, big responsibility. (13, TFW) I was hoping that I will bring here my family and also my kids will settle here. That is the only thing that I want to pursue now. I want also to help my brother and sister and my wife’s brother and sister. That is the main thing [why] I want to stay here. (18, TFW)
Overall, an interesting glimpse into questions of community and inclusion in McMurray.

-- Bob Barnetson

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