Fed review sheds light on foreign worker controversy

A CANADIAN federal review of the decision to grant HD Mining approval to hire temporary Chinese workers found the company “met all the program requirements” but raised questions as to the “genuineness” of the company’s employment search.

Staff Reporter

The Citizen Services file review report was obtained by The Canadian Press and confirmed that due diligence was performed on the applications.

However, the news source said the report raised concerns over the company’s search for workers for its Murray River coal project in British Colombia.

The review noted that of the 201 applications submitted by HD Mining for temporary foreign workers, 84 of the workers were previously applied for by its sister company Canadian Dehua International.

Fourteen of those workers were resubmitted by HD Mining for different positions.

"The duties of these two positions do overlap somewhat, although the requirements for the position changed from 'on the job training' to 'three years of experience required’," the report said.

"Although the (temporary foreign worker) is not part of Service Canada's assessment, this could raise questions regarding the employer's intent and/or the genuineness of these job offers."

The decision to grant HD the labour required for the program is to be reviewed in Federal Court this week following challenges from two labour unions.

The three-day hearing is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

A HD Mining spokesperson told The Canadian Press that the decision to grant temporary foreign worker permits was made "in an entirely reasonable manner" and the allegations by the unions were improper and unfounded.

The project had been delayed by six months, the unidentified spokesperson said in an email.

The work entails the extraction of a 100,000 ton coal sample to determine the viability of full mine development and confirmation that the coal is marketable.

"HD Mining requires reasonable certainty before commencing with bulk sample work, which is why we are looking forward to completing the final stages of this litigation with the Judicial Review hearing," the email said.

The unions reportedly claim they have evidence that multiple Canadian applicants had exemplary qualifications and should have been given first rights to available jobs at the Murray River project.

“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,” International Union of Operating Engineers spokesman Brian Cochrane previously told the The Canadian Press.

“It appears that some of them didn’t even have an opportunity for an interview.”

Unions claimed that one rejected applicant had 30 years of wide-ranging and extensive experience in all aspects of underground mining while another had 20 years experience including three years as an underground supervisor.

In December, a federal court sided with the miner but pressure on the imported labor scheme nevertheless generated a significant risk factor of uncertainty.

Shortly after the union claims, HD said it was sending 16 Chinese workers home because of uncertainty caused by the ongoing dispute.

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