On the day in late October when 13 temporary foreign workers arrived from China to begin work at a coal mine near Tumbler Ridge, B.C., the forecasted low was –19°C, with a snowfall warning. So much for a warm welcome. In fact, just two days later the federal government announced that it was re-examining the application that allowed HD Mining to bring in workers to the site in the first place.
But then, the reception afforded these particular arrivals was expected to be frosty. Unions were already angry about the growing number of workers entering the country through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, in part due to the Harper government’s easing of restrictions. Making it worse, here was China, long the great job thief, now exporting its impossibly cheap labour to Canadian shores.
Looming in the background was a historic misallocation of the labour market that has high-school graduates spending tens of thousands of dollars training for pursuits like web design and filmmaking, even as jobs go chronically unfilled in the country’s resource hinterland. The controversy, which started weeks before the workers’ arrival, happened to coincide with a much-mocked B.C. provincial government advertising campaign urging young people to reconsider their career paths, since “Hipster is not a real job.”
Then, there were some early missteps by HD Mining, a joint venture between Huiyong Holdings, a Chinese miner, and Canadian Dehua International Mines, founded by Naishun Liu, a China-born, Vancouver-based businessman. These included help-wanted ads that seemed tailored to repel Canadian job seekers with offers of below-scale wages, and a request for Mandarin fluency. Further muddying the waters were reports that Chinese-based brokers were trying to gouge Canadian-bound workers for as much as $12,500 in commissions.
Most of this was old news or pure misapprehension, according to Jody Shimkus, the company’s vice-president of environmental and regulatory affairs, who notes that its recruitment campaign—miserably unfruitful—complied with foreign-worker program regulations, offering wages within 15% of industry norms, among other stipulations. Shimkus contends it’s a simple case of underground long-wall mining being new to Canada; the experienced Chinese miners will in fact train Canadians in the unfamiliar technique.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Canadian Business Magazine website: http://www.canadianbusiness.com/article/105596–imported-chinese-workers-inflame-b-c-debate-over-skills-training