Responsible employers who hire temporary foreign workers are being unfairly punished, says Alberta Labour Minister Thomas Lukaszuk.  

"Finding workers to work in restaurants, particularly the night shift, is virtually impossible and the majority of employers have been using the program the way it was designed," he said. 

Lukaszuk warned the province's restaurant industry will see an immediate impact and accused the federal government of overreacting. 

"It definitely appears to me as somewhat of a kneejerk reaction, a decision made in the evening without even advising provinces of such — communicated, frankly, through the media.  

"(It's) not the way I would conduct business, without a doubt."

Gil McGowan, with the Alberta Federation of Labour, welcomed the moratorium even if, as he says, it was motivated by political damage control and  not genuine concern for foreign workers.

"The focus of Canadians who are angry about this program should be firmly on the federal government which put these rules in place, rather than on employers like McDonald's and Tim Hortons who have simply exploited those rules."

McGowan said the program is being abused in many other industries and believes wages for all Canadians are suffering as a result.

Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced Thursday the immediate moratorium on the fast-food industry's access to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

The suspension came shortly after the CBC told Kenney the CEO of McDonald's Canada had branded recent criticism of its use of temporary foreign workers "bullshit" in a conference call to franchisees.

With files from CBC's John Archer