Canadian Manufacturing

Pair of unions seek federal court muscle to oust foreign workers from B.C. mine

Two unions say foreign workers can only be brought in when labour shortage exists


VANCOUVER—A battle over foreign workers in a northeastern British Columbia coal mine could be decided by the courts.

Two unions have filed an application in Federal Court, asking a judge to overturn Ottawa’s decision allowing the use of Chinese miners at the Murray River Project, an underground coal mine near Tumbler Ridge, 120-kilometres southwest of Dawson Creek.

The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115, and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union—better known as the Labourers’ Union—Local 1611, say the federal government defied its own regulations when it allowed HD Mining International Ltd., to hire 201 miners from China.

The unions say foreign workers can only be brought in when a labour shortage exists, but IUOE business manager Bruce Cochrane says 474 miners are out of work in B.C., more than 100 of them in the northeastern corner of the province.

Federal rules also require foreign workers to receive the same wage as their Canadian counterparts, but Cochrane says HD Mining posted one position at about $10 per hour below the going rate and did not list any benefits.

While the Federal Court decides if it will hear the case, the Murray River project continues through the environmental assessment phase, using the Chinese workers to collect samples from the proposed coal mine.