Unions call for ban on temporary mine workers

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley.

Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie


VANCOUVER -- Lawyers representing unions fighting to prevent Chinese temporary workers from operating a B.C. coal mine met with government lawyers in court Wednesday.

A lawyer for the federal government said Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley wasn’t admitting to any flaws in the temporary foreign worker permit process Wednesday in front of a Federal Court judge.

The lawyer was speaking at a judicial review application hearing on whether the government followed rules to import 201 Chinese miners for a coal mine in Tumbler Ridge, B.C. He said Finley was only acknowledging there were concerns out there.

“The minister’s comments were not in acknowledgement of any reviewable errors... She was acknowledging the government had identified concerns about the overall impact of the regulatory process ... and the government is taking action,” he told court.

Government has so far given out 17 visas to Chinese workers, the court was told, but work permits aren’t given until the workers arrive in Canada.

Union lawyers argue there’s no assurance more workers will come, but told the judge they believe another 60 workers are due to arrive sometime in December.

The visas already issued expire between May 31, 2013, and May 31, 2014. Workers may show up at anytime before those dates.

The government also has collected multiple labour-market opinions, a form of research prior to issuing permits. The union has yet to review those.

The International Union of Operating Engineers as well as the Construction and Specialized Workers Union are asking the courts to ban temporary foreign workers from working at the underground coal mine.

Earlier this month, Finley said insufficient efforts were made to recruit or train Canadians for the jobs at HD Mining, and called a foreign-language requirement for the jobs not legitimate.

The provincial government has said the reason temporary foreign workers were needed in the first place was the lack of long-wall mining training, a production-phase method of underground coal mining, in Canada.

The unions argue that the work the Chinese miners would be doing doesn’t require that type of training.

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