British Columbia

Chinese workers targeted as cheap labour, court told

A lawyer for the unions seeking to stop the use of temporary foreign workers from China at a northern B.C. coal mine says the company advertised those jobs for $10 to $17 less than what is paid at a nearby mine for similar work.
Controversial plans to hire 201 Chinese workers at a proposed mine in northern British Columbia have prompted Ottawa to announce a review of its entire foreign worker program, with the government suggesting the case has revealed deeper problems with a system designed to fill short-term labour shortages. (CBC)

A lawyer for the unions seeking to stop the use of temporary foreign workers from China at a northern B.C. coal mine says the company advertised those jobs for $10 to $17 less than what is paid at a nearby mine for similar work.

Charles Gordon told a Federal Court judge Friday that the company, HD mining, was also looking specifically for workers who speak Mandarin.

He said allowing the temporary workers to fill the jobs at the Murray River Coal Mine near Tumbler Ridge, B.C., will directly affect the unions and Canadian workers. Gordon said there are qualified Canadian workers who want those mining jobs.

The International Union of Operating Engineers and the Construction and Specialized Workers' Union are seeking an injunction to stop foreign workers on temporary work permits from arriving in Canada and, on Friday, Gordon argued the court should hear the unions' challenge to the permits.

The federal government is reviewing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and initiated proceedings in federal court in Vancouver Wednesday to allow interested parties to make arguments for being granted standing in court.

The Crown and the mining companies argued that the unions have no right to challenge the temporary work permits.

Gordon said the Crown is siding with the companies and trying to silence the unions.

With files from the CBC