A transition plan by a Vancouver mining company to replace temporary foreign workers with Canadians at a proposed $300 million project in northern B.C would take 14 years, according to documents released in Vancouver Federal Court last week.
“As a Canadian employer, HD Mining will endeavor over time to employ a 100 per cent Canadian workforce,” said Peng Gui Yan, chairman of HD Mining International.
“It is a goal of HD Mining to, where practicable and possible (to) transfer the skills of the TFWs (Temporary Foreign Workers) to local Canadians. This will however take time and HD is proposing a multi-year training process, during which local Canadian workers would be trained in the skills required for this method of mining.”
He made the statement in a document that HD Mining submitted to Vancouver Federal Court on Dec. 12.
During the court proceedings, union lawyer Charles Gordon presented an application for an injunction to stop about 200 Chinese TFWs from coming to Canada to start construction on the Murray River coal mine, near Tumbler Ridge, B.C.
Justice James Russell dismissed the motion by the Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union and the International Union of Operating Engineers (IOUE) Local 115 on Dec. 14.
As a result, HD Mining upheld its right to employ Chinese nationals to work at the underground mine.
The unions are still submitting an application for a judicial review, which would investigate the process that granted about 200 Chinese TFWs permission to work in Canada.
As part of the application process, HD Mining developed and submitted a training and transition plan to ensure safe employment of workers and to eventually transition fully to Canadian workers.
Peng outlined the transition plan in a letter sent to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada in March of this year.
It states that TFWs will be used during 30 months of construction, the one year of setting up a training school and then two more years for recruiting and training Canadians.
After recruitment and training, it would then take the company another 10 years to replace the Chinese workers with Canadians, at a replacement rate of 10 per cent a year.
“The transition plan is basically thin to non-existent,” said union lawyer Charles Gordon.
“It is full of platitudes, but no concrete steps on how this will be undertaken.”
The TFW transition plan said English language training will be provided, that interpreters and English speaking foremen will facilitate on the job training and skills transfer to Canadians.
However, the lack of a requirement for English for TFWs in underground mining occupations, raises concerns regarding HD Mining’s ability to attract, train and transition Canadian workers.
Throughout the court proceedings, HD Mining has insisted that Mandarin was not specified or advertised as a requirement for employment at the mine.
The project will utilize a long-wall mining method, which is not widely used in Canada.
The company claims the method is highly mechanized and specialized, so it requires Chinese workers skilled in this technique.