Canada
Union questions BC mining probe

Credits: REUTERS

JEREMY NUTTALL | QMI AGENCY

VANCOUVER -- The United Steelworkers Union (USW) is accusing the province of conducting a poor investigation into allegations Chinese miners are paying fees to work in British Columbia.

The USW is involved in a bitter dispute with the China-backed HD Mining over the use of miners from China brought to its Murray River coal mine near Tumbler Ridge, BC, as temporary workers.

Charging workers for job recruitment is illegal in BC. In October, it was discovered Chinese miners were offered jobs in the province for a $12,500 fee.

HD Mining was never linked to the recruitment companies and denied any of the 201 workers it intended to bring to Canada paid fees.

The Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training launched an investigation into the allegations and recently sent a letter to the USW regarding its findings.

"There was no evidence in this case of employees being charged fees in British Columbia or by BC-based recruiters, nor was there evidence that fees were being charged in respect of employees at HD Mining," Deputy Minister Dave Byng wrote.

"The province has no jurisdiction over such action if these take place overseas."

The letter also insisted BC doesn't have enough miners in its workforce to staff the expansion of nine existing mines and eight new ones.

USW District 3 president Stephen Hunt said he doesn't have faith the investigation was properly conducted.

He said in a phone call to the Employment Standards Branch inquiring about the investigation, executive director Chris Johnson gave unclear answers about if fees were paid or if any such efforts were made in China.

"An investigation without facts is not an investigation ... all they're saying is, ‘We've done a thorough investigation'," Hunt said. "We are perplexed as to how they do a thorough investigation and don't put the facts down."

He also accused the provincial government of shifting its responsibility, pointing out the letter notes the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is controlled by the federal government.

"They've been trying to duck it at every turn," he said.

"We're not going to go away."

Earlier this month, HD Mining sent 16 miners back to China citing litigation expenses after two BC unions won a court decision forcing the company to hand over the resumes of 300 Canadians who applied for positions with the company.

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