Temp workers 'exacerbate' concerns

An internal federal review of a decision to grant permits to a Chinese company to bring temporary foreign workers from China for its British Columbia coal mine found the company met or exceeded all requirements.

But the November report notes that the sequence of events in HD Mining's application to bring 201 miners over from China for its Murray River coal mine leaves some questions as to the "genuineness" of the company in its search for Canadian workers.

The File Review Report obtained by The Canadian Press through Access to Information found that due diligence was performed on the applications.

"The employer, HD Mining International Ltd., has met all the program requirements for the (Temporary Foreign Worker Program)," said the Nov. 27 report prepared by Michele Morandini, acting director of the program, and approved by Heather Backhouse, executive director of the Citizen Services program delivery branch, BC and Yukon.

However, the review noted that of the 201 applications submitted by HD Mining, 84 of the workers had previously been 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,'" it 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."

Two labour unions have challenged the decision to grant HD the labour market opinions required for the program, and a judicial review is scheduled to be heard in a Federal Court room this week in Vancouver.

An undated memorandum to Human Resources Minister Diane Finley last year noted that HD met all program requirements and demonstrated a willingness to develop a program to train Canadians over time.

"However, the department remains concerned that, under HD Mining's current plan, the mines will be staffed predominantly by (temporary foreign workers) for the foreseeable future," it said.

"This exacerbates general public discomfort (over) Chinese investment by concretizing previously abstract fears that these investments will not yield immediate jobs at the mine sites, spin-off jobs and investment in surrounding communities, and long-term economic growth for B.C. and Canada."

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