Two B.C. unions are fighting to prevent Ottawa from issuing work permits to 200 Chinese workers at a coal mine in Tumbler Ridge, in northeastern B.C.
The International Union of Operating Engineers and the Construction and Specialized Workers' Union want the Federal Court to overturn Ottawa's decision to allow HD Mining International to bring workers in from China.
B.C. Jobs Minister Pat Bell has said it's been difficult to recruit enough Canadian workers with the skills and experience needed to work in the underground coal mine.
But the unions disagree, saying there are currently 100 qualified Canadian union members currently looking for work in northeastern B.C.
Unions worry Chinese workers will be paid less
"There's British Columbians and Canadians available in Canada to do that type of work. I mean, the initial portion of this work is just survey work. I mean, how complicated is that?" said Lee Loftus, the President of B.C. Building Trades.
B.C. Building Trades is an umbrella organization for construction unions including The International Union of Operating Engineers and the Construction and Specialized Workers' Union.
"We need to pay a little bit more attention to what we're doing with our resources, [and] what the Canadian government does when it issues these types of decrees that there is unemployment when there isn't. I just think this is a big wake up call," he said.
Unions have raised concerns that Chinese miners will be paid lower rates than those earned by Canadian workers, and say recruited miners may have been forced to pay hefty fees to Chinese agents in order to be considered for the Tumbler Ridge jobs.