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December 31, 2012

Unions filing motion of contempt against federal cabinet minister

Two construction unions are taking legal action against a federal cabinet minister to force a Vancouver company to turn over documents relating to Chinese temporary foreign workers (TFWs), who are being imported to construct a proposed coal mine in northeastern BC.

“We will be bringing a motion of contempt against the Minister,” said Charles Gordon, lawyer for the Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union (Labourers) and the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). “We are having the minister served right now – we have no choice. We say the Minister clearly has the ability to enforce this order – she must – or the integrity of the Temporary Foreign Workers program is at risk.”

Gordon told Justice Douglas Campbell and Justice Michael Manson in federal court on Dec 21 that HD Mining is refusing to turn over documents relating to about 200 Chinese TFW’s that have been hired work at the $300 million Murray River Project, near Tumbler Ridge BC.

In addition, a lawyer representing the federal government argued they have no power to force HD Mining to comply with a previous court order buy Justice Campbell.

ON Dec. 7, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and HD Mining were ordered by Campbell to produce Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) and all the supporting materials that was used to grant the TFWs permission to work at the underground mine.

An LMO is an opinion provided by HRSDC to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, which assesses the impact that hiring the TFWs may have on the Canadian labour market.

The unions claim the LMOs issued to HD Mining failed to ensure there were no Canadians to do the work, while the TFWs were offered wages far below prevailing rates.

HD Mining received 300 applications from Canadian citizens or permanent residents to work at the mine. However, the company did not hire one of these applicants, claiming they were not qualified.

For this reason, Gordon said HRSDC Minister Diane Finley will be served with a copy of the court order as soon as possible and then the union will file its contempt application.

A “show cause” court hearing is scheduled for January 9 to determine if the contempt motion will be heard. If so, Finley would be compelled to testify.

Court document revealed HD Mining also placed advertisements for various positions that required the ability to speak Mandarin as a qualification, which is unnecessary and unreasonable for Canadians.

“Temporary Foreign Workers are being used to replace qualified Canadian workers in very large numbers and without any adequate controls on the process – that’s simply wrong and we expect a judicial review will show just how wrong it is in the HD Mining case,” said Mark Olsen, business manager for the Construction and Specialized Workers Union Local 1618.

Justice Campbell granted public interest standing to the unions on Nov. 22 to apply for a judicial review, which would determine if HRSDC made errors issuing LMOs to HD Mining and ensure accountability in decision-making at HRSDC.

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