Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Unions Have Right to Challenge Mine's Temporary Foreign Worker Permits: Judge

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Unions Have Right to Challenge Mine's Temporary Foreign Worker Permits: Judge

Article excerpt

Unions can proceed with temp miner challenge

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VANCOUVER - The Federal Court will hear a challenge brought by two unions of a federal government decision to grant temporary foreign work permits for a northern B.C. coal mine.

The unions are seeking a judicial review of approximately 200 temporary foreign worker permits granted to HD Mining International for its Murray River mine near Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

Lawyers for the company and the federal Immigration and Human Resources departments sought to have the application dismissed.

Judge Douglas Campbell declined, noting in his decision Thursday there is a public interest in the case.

"I note that presently there is almost no knowledge of the contents of the (labour market opinions) in question, nor is there a method in the present circumstances by which their production can be ordered without granting the applicants standing in these proceedings," Campbell wrote.

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union Local 1611 say the company offered wages that were $10 to $17 an hour lower than the going rates at similar mines, and without benefits.

They claim the mine also had advertisements that required workers speak Mandarin -- a claim the company denies.

The unions want to see the labour market opinions rendered by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. The opinions, which are intended to determine whether there's a labour shortage in a particular job, formed the basis for the successful permit applications. The Crown opposed providing those documents, even on a confidential basis.

"I don't know why they were fighting us so hard and why they wouldn't give us the documents earlier," said Charles Gordon, the lawyer for the unions.

"If the process was followed, as the companies have claimed, then it's hard to see what harm there could be from producing the documents when we asked for them. And if the process was followed properly, this whole thing would disappear."

Brian Cochrane, business manager of the Operating Engineers union, said Thursday's victory is only the first step.

"We've just hit first base today and now it's time to move on and hopefully we get the production of documents necessary," he said outside court. …

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