02/12/2014 01:00 EST

Canadian Oilsands Workers Not Rehired After Temporary Foreign Workers Fired, They Say

This Sept. 19, 2011 aerial photo shows a tar sands mine facility near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Canada. Alberta has the world's third-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela - more than 170 billion barrels. Daily production of 1.5 million barrels from the oil sands is expected to increase to 3.7 million in 2025, which the oil industry sees as a pressing reason to build the pipelines. Critics, however, dislike the whole concept of tapping the oil sands, saying it requires huge amounts of energy and water, increases greenhouse gas emissions and threatens rivers and forests. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)

The Alberta Federation of Labour is calling out a job contractor for backing out on its promise to rehire workers from an oilsands site.

In a press release, the union claims contractor Pacer-Promec Joint Ventures made a vague promise last week to rehire 65 employees from the Imperial Oil Kearn Lake oilsands site who were laid off and replaced with temporary foreign workers from Croatia.

While the Pacer-Promec press release didn't specify which Canadian workers would be hired back, the union is still calling foul.

"The company misled reporters on Friday with a press release that vaguely indicated that displaced workers would be rehired," union president Gil McGowan said in the statement.

A federal government official told the Canadian Press Friday that all of the employees had received other job offers, but McGowan said that wasn't true. He also expressed outrage over the contractor's "unrepentant" continued use of temporary foreign workers.

The contractor has since apologized for the layoffs, saying they thought they were following the rules but that "these temporary workers should have been assigned to other projects where there is an existing labour shortage.”

The federal government has made strong statements against what it calls "abuses" of the Temporary Foreign Workers program, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper admitted back in January that the program has been "overextended', musing that what the country needs is more "permanent foreign workers".

In the federal budget Tuesday, Tories announced they would allot $11 million over two years, and $3.5 million a year, to reform the contentious Temporary Foreign Worker Program to ensure that Canadians are first in line for available jobs.

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