Thus far I have refrained from commenting on the fact that Chinese miners are here and more are coming to mine coal in a British Columbia coal mine. It is the sort of topic crafted to get one into trouble whatever you write. But maybe the time is now right—considering a report that a Federal Court has agreed to decide if two British Columbia unions have standing to seek an injunction that would stop more Chinese coal miners coming to work at Tumbler Ridge.
The case is complex, but this is the crux:
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said the government had concerns whether HD Mining followed correct procedure when applying for permits to bring the workers to Canada, particularly regarding advertisements specifying Mandarin speakers were preferred. Labour groups alleged that was done to purposely eliminate Canadians from contention, so the jobs could be filled by temporary workers at a lower cost.
The mining company bringing in the Chinese workers replies thus–resorting as is often the case to attacking the press:
HD Mining’s lawyer told the judge the company followed all procedures, referred to the ads as “rogue” and suggested the media has blown up their significance.
Or as is reported elsewhere:
The Chinese workers will be employed at the Murray River Coal Mine, an underground mine, operated by HD Mining International Ltd. The company has insisted there aren’t Canadian workers trained in the skills needed to operate the machinery and other equipment used in the operation.
Seems the Canadian Federal Government is behind the mess. The report notes:
But on Wednesday lawyers representing the federal government told Justice Campbell the visas and their related work permits were already issued and could not be rescinded, an assertion the judge rejected. Justice Campbell said it seemed the company and the government had enough power between them to stop the workers from coming to Canada if needed, and suggested they tell the workers in China there is a chance they won’t be leaving for B.C. to “ease their anxiety.”
Seems to me all liberals should be screaming over what appears to amount to human trafficking, namely bringing poor workers from China to toil for low wages doing jobs Canadians do not want to do. Note these extracts from a fuller report on abuses:
The hundreds of “temporary” foreign workers coming from China starting this autumn to work in northeastern B.C. coal mines will end up staying for years, if not decades, predicts the president of a B.C.-based employment agency. And some of them may end up getting ripped off and even going home in caskets if the B.C. government doesn’t ensure proper regulation, said Kael Campbell, president of the Red Seal Group, a Victoria firm that helps match companies with skilled tradespeople across Canada. “ “We really have to question how a miner who knows 100 words in English will know what their rights are or how to follow” government-mandated safety procedures. He cited one incident in 2007 when two Chinese nationals brought to Canada under the TFW program died when the roof of a holding tank collapsed over their heads at an oilsands project north of Fort McMurray. The widow of one of the accident victims, Ge Genbao, said her husband told her he would make the equivalent of $600 a month. He should have been making $30 an hour, or at least $4,800 a month, plus overtime and benefits, according to the union that represented the workers, the Edmonton Journal reported.
Or is this a case of a stealth invasion–the start of a steady stream of Chinese come to mine, just as they did when they came to build railways.
I am told many mines in Zambia are run by and worked by the Chinese who own the mines. Is Canada to go the same way as Zambia?
Or is all this overblown, and indeed the equipment needed to take bulk samples is so complex that it would take six months to train Canadian workers? What is the equipment: backhoes, excavators, robots, remote controlled equipment beyond the comprehension of union folk here in BC? Hard to believe this one.
The following editorial, gets, I suspect to the heart of the matter–rich Chinese (the one percent) getting ready to exploit poor Chinese and Canadian government officials–who appear to be not so bright themselves:
Canadians are widely known as some of the best miners in the world, and the Chinese as some of the worst. Just how bad? Since the turn of the millennium, more than 50,000 miners have been killed in China’s coal mines — easily the highest death count in global mining.
And so the emerging plan to bring Chinese miners to work in B.C.’s coal fields doesn’t quite pass the smell test.
It wasn’t that long ago that B.C.’s deeply unpopular Liberal Premier Christy Clark was off in China talking up the $1.4 billion in Chinese investments due to be made in B.C.’s coal sector, with four new mines set to be developed in the province. What she failed to mention is that these Chinese investors are planning to bring up to 2,000 low-paid Chinese miners to carry out most of the work.
Let’s be clear: this would be well-heeled Chinese investors putting up the money and serving as lead managers, migrant Chinese workers flown in to do the heavy lifting, with the coal product shipped to China and corporate profits staying in Chinese hands. It’s hard to see how Canadians could benefit any less from the exploitation of mineral resources under their feet.
Canada was once a colony as were so many countries under British rule. Are we about to return to being a colony of China? Seems to me this is the start of a long, slippery slope into modern serfdom for poor Chinese and unionized Canadians alike.
About the only potential good thing about this story I could find is this statement by a self-proclaimed socialist:
Bulking up on imports might also allow China to close small, sometimes dangerous domestic operations, he said. Official statistics put the number of Chinese coal miners killed in mining accidents at more than 250,000 since 1949. Small mines run by township and village enterprises accounted for one-third of production over the past decade, but three-quarters of fatalities, Mr. Tu wrote. Local officials have balked at central-government attempts to shutter the operations.
We will watch this with interest.
PS: 26 Nov 2012. The local free newspaper 24 hours reports that “a Federal Court has given the unions the green light to proceed with their fight against importing miners,” and that “HD Mining had signed a preliminary agreement with Norhtern Lights College to develop a long-wall-mining cirriculum.”
PS: 27 Nov 2012. At this link the Globe and Mail reports that seventeen Chinese have already arrived in Tumbler Ridge, and that the unions and the Federal government continue to spar over access to documents relating to the process by which the decision was made to allow the Chinese to come in force. Here are a few paragrpahs from the Globe and Mail Report.
Under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, employers are required to obtain Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) before hiring from abroad. As part of the process, employers have to show the efforts they made to hire locally and that wages for foreign workers will be in line with prevailing pay rates for Canadians working in similar jobs in the region.
The unions argue that the company advertised jobs at wage rates that were up to $17 an hour below those paid for nearby jobs and discouraged applicants by including Mandarin language requirements in job postings.
Federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said earlier this month she was not satisfied with what she had learned about the process that led to hundreds of foreign workers getting jobs at the B.C. mine and that Ottawa would review the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Sound to me like somebody botched things in Ottowa. Can’t but wonder if bribery and corruption was involved.