B.C. court says unions can see work permits for Chinese miners – by Petti Fong (Toronto Star – November 23, 2012)

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VANCOUVER—The federal government was ordered Thursday to turn over to two B.C. trade unions the permits it granted up to 300 Chinese miners to see whether those jobs could have been done by Canadian workers.

In a decision late Thursday in federal court, Judge Douglas Campbell awarded the two unions access to the Labour Market Opinions, the federal government term for the temporary work permits that allows foreign workers to come to Canada. Federal lawyers had argued against releasing the LMOs because of concerns that allowing the permits to be made public could open the floodgates to wide access. They said the permits could provide information that could violate privacy and raise competition issues for the companies that wanted to bring in workers.

HD Mining International Ltd., Canadian Dehua International Mines Group and Huiyong Holdings B.C. sided with the federal government in arguing the trade unions should not have access to those permits.

The permits will allow 200 to 300 miners from China to come to northern B.C. to work at the Murray River Coal Mine near Tumbler Ridge. Already about a dozen miners from China have arrived to do preliminary surveillance work and another 60 were scheduled to be in Canada by mid-December.

“We’re very happy with the decision, it means trade unions clearly have a public interest standing to bring these issues forward,” said Charles Gordon, the lawyer representing the Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union, Local 1611 and International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115.

The federal government had argued that the unions should have no standing to demand a judicial review of the permits because an individual worker should be the one to make the claim.

But the union argued that because they don’t know how the permits were granted, they needed to broaden the issue to demand all of the permits. It’s unclear exactly how many permits were issued because the federal government issued some LMOs that covered as many as 65 positions. Lorne Lachance, the lawyer for the Department of Justice representing the federal government, declined to comment as did lawyers for the mining companies.

For the rest of this column, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1291856–b-c-court-says-unions-can-see-work-permits-for-chinese-miners