Friday, 14 December 2012

Unions protesting over the exclusive use of temporary foreign workers in a BC mine is not racism

It’s no surprise the exclusive use of Chinese temporary workers at a northern BC coal mine ignited a heated debate about foreign investments by China and a fight for Canadian jobs, but the fact it is now being used to fuel flames of racism is a shabby cheap shot at orgainized labour and is insulting to Canadians.

According to a CBC report, Huizhi Li, who works at HD Mining's Murray River project near Tumbler Ridge, and who allegedly penned a letter to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, allegedly says leaflets and the content on a United Steelworkers Union website are likely to create contempt for Chinese people.

And we all believe in Santa Claus!

The crux of Li's argument and his alleged letter to the Commission – written, no less, on HD Mining’s letterhead – says information posted to the union's website is somehow racist because Chinese miners will work for reduced wages and in substandard conditions and denies Canadians opportunity to those jobs.

Mr. Li can allegedly complain all he wants because that is a right in Canada. But no, sir! The argument does not fly. And make no mistake on this one: there is ample evidence to back the statements put out by the Steelworkers. As such, the arguments put forward by all Canadian unions that, quite rightly, are fighting against the use of temporary foreign workers – from any country – has nothing to do with racism. Rather, it has everything to do with the fact that Canadian federal and provincial policies are fundamentally undermining Canadian labour standards and forcing down wages and other gains made by workers over the years.

And these arguments, that are well founded, run deep with Canadians. The use of temporary workers at the Murray River coal mining operation, or anywhere else for that matter, is raising the ire of Canadians unwilling to accept a blatant sell-out of Canadian jobs by our governments.

According to a recent CBC/Nanos survey, for example, sixty-eight per cent of respondents said they "oppose" or "somewhat oppose" allowing temporary foreign workers into the country if there are Canadians looking for work who are qualified for the same jobs. Six per cent were unsure.

What this survey shows is Canadians don’t buy into what’s going on in this country with respect to the use of temporary foreign workers. Yet ironically, the survey results were released Monday, hours after Immigration Minister Jason Kenney unveiled details of a new program intended to speed the arrival to Canada of foreign tradespeople whose skills are allegedly in demand.

Kenney said the Skilled Trades Stream will accept up to 3,000 foreign workers next year, and touted the program as a way to address alleged labour shortages, particularly in remote regions of the country.

Say what you want Kenney, this scribe, along with many others, will argue this expansion of the program is directly linked to another hit on organized labour. And this point cannot be understated. Unions continue to represent workers in an effort to sustain fair wages and benefits for all Canadians. Their efforts need to be both applauded and supported. But it's something Kenny and his ilk don't appreciate.

As well, many others will most likely point out that politicians and their corporate masters have a long history of making attempts to dismiss the relevance of unions, pit workers against each other, while turning the benefits unions have wrought for their workers into resentments from the broader population. This, in turn, has created a struggle between workers and the resulting depression of wages and benefits, causing a race to the bottom and eliminating the effectiveness of worker's advocacy.

As for the exclusive use of temporary foreign workers at the Murray River mine and playing the race card? Well, that just tops the list of assaults and insults. It is nothing short of another thinly veiled attack on labour.


Chinese mining firm launches rights complaint, threatens feds with lawsuit

Chinese miners allowed to come to B.C., judge rules

Federal judge denies unions' request for an injunction

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