NEWS RELEASE Tuesday May 21, 2013
“Without taking this case to Court, nothing would have changed in the TFW Program”
VANCOUVER – BC Building Trades unions say that while they have lost a Federal Court of Canada battle over HD Mining bringing 200 coal miners from China to British Columbia, they have won the war by forcing federal government changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Justice Russel Zinn ruled today dismissed a union application to overturn Temporary Foreign Worker permits given to HD Mining but the unions point out that the federal Conservative government has already announced significant changes to the Program because of evidence produced in Court about how qualified Canadians were not considered for HD Mining jobs.
CKNW Reports 2013 May 21
“By taking on this case, building trades unions have exposed a fundamentally broken Temporary Foreign Worker Program and won in the most important court – the court of public opinion,” said Brian Cochrane, Business Manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 – one of two unions granted the judicial review.
“This Federal Court case was the catalyst to demonstrate conclusively that the dramatic increase in the use of Temporary Foreign Workers has come at the cost of Canadian jobs,” Cochrane added. “We support many of the changes proposed by the federal government and will continue to fight for more improvements to end abuse of the system.”
Mark Olsen, Business Manager for the Construction and Specialized Workers Union [Labourers’ Union] Local 1611 – the other Building Trades union in the case, said it was disappointing that some evidence produced in Court was excluded from consideration by Justice Zinn.
“Justice Zinn excluded affidavit evidence we introduced that showed no long wall mining techniques would be used in the bulk sample coal mining development stage – but that was the stated reason HD Mining was given Temporary Foreign Worker permits – we find that very frustrating,” Olsen said.
“But ultimately, this case is about showing Canadians the truth about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and asking them to demand that the federal government make significant changes to fix the problems – on that we have succeeded,” Olsen said.
BC Building Trades Executive Director Tom Sigurdson says evidence produced during the judicial review clearly shows that a political and not legal solution is required.
“Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been in charge while the use of Temporary Foreign Workers skyrocketed to over 330,000 – it’s time his government stood up for Canadian workers who are being displaced instead of foreign investors and Canadian employers looking for cheaper labour,” Sigurdson said.
In April the federal government announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that include removing an option that allowed employers to pay 15% lower wages than Canadian prevailing wage rates, ending an Accelerated Labour Market Opinion process to bring in Temporary Foreign Workers, giving government increased authority to suspend and revoke worker permits for abusing the program and ensuring foreign languages are not job requirements.
But the BC Building Trades continue to warn that many problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program have not yet been addressed, including ensuring a transparent process, a clear understanding of how the government will assess the need for Temporary Foreign Workers, how it will monitor their use by employers and how the use of Temporary Foreign Workers will transition to employing Canadian workers.
Cochrane noted that Justice Zinn’s decision is not subject to appeal but that the unions will continue their efforts in other ways.
“Without this case we would have not have seen a single improvement to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program – the lesson is that you have to fight for changes to make any progress and we will keep doing that,” Cochrane said.
Lawyers Charles Gordon, Lorne Waldman and Chris MIsura represented the unions in the hearing.
For more information:
Brian Cochrane, Business Manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 and BC Building Trades Council board member, cell 604-240-0827 or office 604-604-291-8831; Mark Olsen, Business Manager, Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union Local 1611 and BC Building Trades Council board member, cell 604-341-1799 or office 604-432-9300; Charles Gordon, legal counsel to the unions 604-734-8001; BC Building Trades Council President Lee Loftus, cell 778-387-0575 and Executive Director Tom Sigurdson, cell 604-353-3532 or Bill Tieleman, West Star Communications, cell 778-896-0964 or 604-844-7827.