A union is concerned some companies are using temporary foreign workers to maintain Calgary parks.

City hall contracts out some seasonal work to private companies, a decision that has raised the ire of its union. City officials argue that contracting out parks work like lawn mowing, watering trees and emptying garbage cans saves money.

An official with one of the contractors, APX Landscaping & Nurseries, said the company tries to hire local workers, but a portion of its workforce does come from places like Fiji, New Zealand and China. Those workers are paid the same as its local hires, $16 an hour, which is $4 less than city workers doing the same work.

The union representing the city’s outside workers says it has yet to see any proof there are savings for city hall and are disappointed companies are bringing in workers from overseas.

Tony Miotti, a representative with Canadian Union of Public Employees, says Calgarians should be concerned because those workers are paid less and there have been complaints about the quality of the companies' work.

“I think they should be outraged a bit to be honest with you because I believe that the work is not getting done as efficiently as they would with city employees. A city employee is loyal to the City of Calgary. That's their employer.”

No rules around foreign hires

A city parks official, Todd Reichardt, said there aren't any rules preventing contracted companies from hiring foreign workers.

“To us it doesn't matter really who's driving the mowers. It's the management of the company that is important and we let them decide who they hire," he said.

City councillor Brian Pincott said he wasn't aware of the issue and he  plans to raise questions at city hall about it.

"We have a responsibility, I believe, that when we are using contractors in any way, that they are ethical, that they are treating people fairly, that they are doing the job appropriately, that they are responsive."

Pincott plans to ask administrators about the contractors' use of foreign workers and how that fits with its policies.

Miotti said the decision is also taking jobs away from students who used to be hired by the city for the summer.

“The summer jobs were reserved for university students who could come in and get a decent wage for the three months during university, go back to university educate themselves. That money stayed in the province, stayed in the City of Calgary, and therefore generated some good for the economy and the City of Calgary as well, that's one of the big reasons we have a problem with it.”