Dozens of unionized construction workers protested outside the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg on Wednesday.
The group is upset over a construction company’s decision to use foreign workers to construct the new Women’s Hospital.
"A project like this, you know, two or three years, yes, it would be nice to get on," said Manny Franco, a concrete worker who is looking for work.
Franco has worked on the Investors Group Field as well as the Human Rights Museum, but he is now out of a job and on employment insurance.
He said the subcontractor — Edmonton-based Pagnotta Industries — has chosen to hire temporary foreign workers instead of hiring locally.
"I don’t want to take work away from anybody, but I think Manitobans should have had the first crack at it," said Franco.
And he’s not alone, about 30 workers from two construction unions protested Wednesday.
The Construction and Specialized Workers Union Local 1258 was joined by a carpenters union in the protest.
Victor DaSilva, the business manager for the specialized workers union, said there are currently 190 unemployed workers in his union that could fill vacancies.
DaSilva said Pagnotta bypassed local workers to save money. Local workers typically cost about five to 15 per cent more than foreign workers.
"They’re outraged with everything that’s going on with the temporary foreign worker program that’s being abused by employers across Canada," said DaSilva.
The company’s owner, Alex Pagnotta, declined an interview with CBC but did say he did nothing wrong.
He said seven or eight of his 35 workers on site from Ireland are paid at the same rate as his local workers.
Pagnotta noted he received approval from Service Canada to hire the workers, adding Manitoba has a shortage of workers who can do skilled concrete formwork.