HD Mining International, the firm bringing Chinese workers for its northern B.C. coal mine, has appealed to a Federal Court ruling allowing local unions the right to request a judicial review of the temporary foreign worker permit granted to the coal company earlier this year.
In a statement issued late Friday, HD Mining said it is “concerned and disappointed that on Nov. 8, 2012, after this litigation had commenced, Minister Diane Finley made a public statement regarding the company and the Temporary Foreign Worker program, which she has to date declined to clarify."
The company added is particularly worried over the effect the minister's statement had on the ongoing court proceedings and the decision to grant the unions standing.
Earlier this month, Finley said the government was not satisfied with what it had learned about the process that led to permission to bring hundreds of foreign workers to the mine.
"In particular, we are not satisfied that sufficient efforts were made to recruit or train Canadians interested in these jobs," Finley said.
And while HD Mining has insisted there weren’t Canadian workers trained in the specialized skills it needs, media reports exposed the miner had been using dubious recruiting practices, as it posted online want ads for six coal mine managers that stipulated Mandarin as a requisite.
According to the B.C. Federation of Labour, a few employment agencies have been offering miners in China a chance to work in Canada in exchange for outrageous amounts of money.
"We understand the jobs weren't advertised fairly at going wage rates to workers in Canada. We are confident that no effort has been made to train workers locally. And now we learn that recruiters are asking prospective Chinese miners to pay a modern day head tax," said the group’s president Jim Sinclair in a press release.
The association, a loud critic of the government’s decision to allow foreign, temporary workers into B.C. mines, wants strict measures.
“The only sensible thing to do is to suspend the permits and conduct a full investigation,” Sinclair added.
But Victor Wong, from the Chinese-Canadian National Council, told Canadian Press on Sunday that the issue seems to be escalating into plain, old-fashioned racism.
"It is unfortunate because this is a serious issue to address. I shouldn't have to work out a response to racism as opposed to working out a response to whether the temporary foreign worker policy is an appropriate policy and whether it's being properly applied in this case." Wong was quoted as saying.
According to the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training's website, a company can be fined up to $10,000 if found guilty of breaching the province's Employment Standards Act.
Seventeen workers are already at the mine in Northern B.C. and another 60 are expected to arrive in mid-December. The miner has been granted two-year visas for 201 temporary workers.
Image of coal miners by the U.S. National Archives.