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Unions accuse feds of breaking rules to pay less for work

TUMBLER RIDGE (NEWS1130) – Two BC unions are taking the feds to court over the use of foreign workers at a coal mine in the northeast part of the province. They say claims Canada doesn’t have enough skilled workers are false.

HD Mining says Canada doesn’t have enough people with the necessary skills to operate the highly-specialized mining equipment required at its Murray River operations near Tumbler Ridge. That claim is rejected in its entirety by Mark Olsen with the Labourers Union.

“Well here’s the irony,” he says. “Did you know the specialized equipment that the Chinese mining company and the government claims will be used on this job… is made in Canada?”

Olsen’s union and the International Union of Operating Engineers accuse the feds of violating their own rules, bringing in foreign workers when no labour shortage exists, and paying them less than their Canadian counterparts.

At issue are permits granted to the company under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. HD Mining has been granted permission to bring 201 workers from China to work at the coal mine up north. Under the program, the company can pay those workers 15 per cent less than their Canadian counterparts.

“The reason why the company wants to bring in these workers from China and the government wants to allow it is to suppress wages and benefits in the mining sector,” argues Olsen. “The federal government has entrenched discrimination.”

The federal court has not yet decided if it will hear the case.