VANCOUVER – BC Building Trades unions say federal government reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program announced today are a very positive first step in response to the judicial review they pursued because HD Mining was allowed to bring 201 Chinese coal miners to BC (for a detailed history check out http://labourspeaksout.com/).
But the unions also warn that there are many problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that must be resolved to ensure qualified Canadians are not losing jobs to imported workers – and called on the federal government to ensure the BC Building Trades are a key part of meaningful consultation on remedies.
The federal government changes 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.
“The BC Building Trades went to Federal Court because qualified Canadians were being excluded from jobs they should have been hired to fill and the evidence we produced forced significant changes today,” said Brian Cochrane, Business Manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 – one of two unions granted the judicial review.
“This is a great initial victory for Canadians. We took an abused, flawed and not well-understood program that was undermining Canadian workers’ interests and shaped a better process for the country,” Cochrane said.
Mark Olsen, Business Manager for the Construction and Specialized Workers Union [Labourers’ Union] Local 1611 – the other Building Trades union in the case, cautioned that while the immediate and pending changes are all welcome, much more needs to be done to protect Canadian jobs.
“We need a process that is far more transparent to Canadians, 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,” Olsen said.
BC Building Trades Executive Director Tom Sigurdson noted that unions have been raising serious concerns about the use of Temporary Foreign Workers for years and that the government only acted after the high profile Federal Court judicial review of the HD Mining case received widespread publicity.
“We look forward to the consultations and believe the BC Building Trades have a role to play given our knowledge of the availability of skilled workers in the construction trades in the unionized sector,” Sigurdson said. “And we believe unions should not only be involved in the review but in the ongoing LMO process.”
The BC Building Trades are waiting for Justice Russel Zinn’s decision on the judicial review of the HD Mining permits and believe it will come down in the next few weeks.
Lawyers Charles Gordon, Lorne Waldman and Chris MIsura represented the unions in the hearing.
For more information:
Brian Cochrane, Business Manager of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 & BC Building Trades Council board member, cell 604-240-0827, office 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
Lee Loftus, President BC Building Trades Council, cell 778-387-0575
Tom Sigurdson, Executive Director BC Building Trades Council, cell 604-353-3532
Bill Tieleman, West Star Communications, cell 778-896-0964 or 604-844-7827