Two unions seek federal court muscle to oust foreign workers from B.C. mine – by Dene Moore (Vancouver Sun – November 5, 2012)

The Canadian Press – VANCOUVER – Two labour unions want a federal court to overturn temporary work permits issued to Chinese workers at a coal mine in northern British Columbia, arguing that there are unemployed Canadians who could fill the jobs.

Permits have been granted under the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program to 200 Chinese workers to conduct exploration work at HD Mining International Ltd.’s Murray River mine near Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

The company has said it was not able to find workers in Canada with the specialized skills necessary. But the court action filed by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union Local 1611 maintains that is not the case.

“There is no evidence of a labour shortage nor is there an absence of suitable Canadian citizens or permanent residents for the jobs,” said the application.

It says HD Mining received 300 applications to work at the underground coal mine “despite the fact that HD Mining did not advertise widely and imposed unreasonable and unnecessary requirements on Canadian applicants.”

Those requirements have not been imposed on the Chinese workers, the court documents allege. The documents also accuse the company of paying wages to the Chinese workers that are about $10 an hour below the prevailing wages in the industry in Canada, and no benefits.

Calls to officials with the unions involved were not returned.

In a statement, Brian Cochrane, business manager of the operating engineers, said there are 474 miners on their dispatch list who are out of work, 100 of them in northeast B.C.

“There are members in our union who are ready, willing and able to do these jobs,” Cochrane said.

The unions say the permits for the Murray River workers were approved in violation of the federal regulations, which stipulate that foreign workers can only be used in situations where a labour shortage exists.

They want the court to declare the permits invalid. The application also seeks an order preventing Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and Citizenship and Immigration from issuing any further offers of employment or permits to HD Mining until the court matter is resolved.

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