Numerous qualified miners rejected for B.C. project, unions say
The B.C. government has received letters of anger over HD Mining's plan to use temporary foreign workers at its proposed underground coal mine.
Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, February 3, 2013 6:48PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, February 3, 2013 7:46PM EST
VANCOUVER -- A mining company that was granted permits to bring 201 temporary foreign workers from China rejected multiple Canadian applicants who had exemplary qualifications, including one person with 30 years experience, say two trades unions after reviewing hundreds of refused resumes.
The unions have been fighting HD Mining in court over the firm's insistence there was never a supply of qualified or interested Canadians in doing the work at the Murray River coal project near Tumbler Ridge, in northern British Columbia.
The labour groups say Canadians should have had the first rights to such jobs, disputing the firm's claims it was forced to get permission to bring in temporary workers.
Now the unions contend they have documents that validate their assertions.
"Clearly the evidence after reviewing these resumes support what we've been doing all along and clearly there were qualified Canadians who should have had an opportunity at these jobs," said Brian Cochrane, a spokesman for the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115.
"It appears that some of them didn't even have an opportunity for an interview."
The engineers' union and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union spent weeks in legal wranglings before the company agreed to hand over about 300 resumes last month to satisfy a Federal Court order.
The unions, which are more broadly seeking a judicial review of Ottawa's decision to issue permits to the workers in the first place, say their findings justify the legal challenge.
They filed documents to the Federal Court late Friday outlining some of the qualifications found within the tossed resumes.
One applicant had more than 30 years of wide-ranging and extensive experience in all aspects of underground mining, while another had 20 years of experience, including three as an underground operations supervisor, according to their submission.
Other sample applicants had six years experience, including three in an underground coal mine, while another had completed an "underground miner hard rock common core" certificate. At least three more had three years and experience installing ventilation, operating equipment and specializing in construction, diamond drilling and production.
"(There was) a full gamut of obviously qualified people," Cochrane argued.
But he said he's still unclear as to why the company would have found the applicants unemployable.
"That part is hard to determine from my perspective. It just looks like the Canadian applicants were discounted."
The judicial review is tentatively set to be heard in April.
HD Mining did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But in a statement last month, its chairman repeated the company's claim it sought and obtained the permits from the federal government "in the absence of being able to find Canadians qualified and interested to do this work."
The firm has also argued it made significant recruiting efforts, but still turned up empty-handed.
Last week, the company announced it was sending 16 temporary workers who had already started work on the prospective project back to China, because the firm was concerned about the ongoing litigation and associated costs.
HD Mining also said it had decided not to bring any more workers to Canada until it had "reliable certainty" on the project.
The case has also prompted a federal review of the temporary foreign workers program.