* Up to 200 temporary workers may be recruited
* Unions say local worker are denied fair chance at jobs
* Labor minister to probe recruiting fraud allegations
By Julie Gordon
Oct 24 British Columbia authorities said on
Wednesday they are investigating complaints by a labor group
that local mining jobs are being advertised in China by
recruiters in exchange for hefty recruitment fees.
The investigation stems from accusations by the B.C.
Federation of Labor that recruitment firms in China are charging
as much as C$12,500 (US$12,600) in fees to find temporary jobs
for Chinese laborers at a mining development in the province
owned by HD Mining International Ltd.
Last week, local online newspaper, theTyee.ca, reported that
laborers are promised the "possibility of immigrating to Canada"
and the ability to "sponsor your family to Canada, too."
The news site reported that a journalist posing as a mine
laborer on an online Chinese jobsite was connected with
recruiters who claimed to be hiring for the mining project.
HD Mining, which is jointly held by Huiyong Holdings Ltd and
Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc, has denied any
link to a recruiting scheme.
The company has secured permits to import up to 201 foreign
laborers under Canada's temporary foreign worker program, which
it has said it needs to complete a bulk sample study at its
Murray River coal project in remote northeastern British
The province's Labour Minister Pat Bell confirmed on
Wednesday that his office was investigating the "serious"
allegations. "The investigation is specific to the fee
allegation that has been made," he said.
It is against Canadian labor law to charge a foreign
temporary worker a fee for employment information and support,
and workers cannot be forced to pay back recruitment costs to
employers. Skilled temporary workers can apply to immigrate to
Canada after four years of working in the country.
The controversy comes at a time of heightened sensitivities
over Chinese ownership of Canadian resource assets. A
contentious C$15.1 billion (US$15.23 billion) bid by state-owned
CNOOC Ltd to take over Canadian oil producer Nexen Inc
is being reviewed by federal authorities.
Canada's official opposition, the left-leaning New
Democratic Party, called on Wednesday for the immediate
cancellation of HD Mining's temporary foreign worker permits and
a full investigation into the company's hiring practices.
Outrage has swelled in British Columbia in recent weeks as
unions and labor groups spoke out over HD Mining's plans to use
foreign workers at the Murray River project.
The company has insisted that it would only bring over
existing employees of parent-company Huiyong Holdings and that
they would return to their existing jobs in China upon
completion of the development project.
HD Mining spokeswoman Jody Shimkus said the company had
tried to hire locally but was unable to find people with the
skills to operate the specialized mining equipment that will be
used at the project.
"We're using highly sophisticated, mechanized, underground
long-wall mining equipment, which is currently not being used in
Canada," she said. "One of the challenges we have is that
equipment is not yet here, so it's difficult to train people."
Local labor groups have said the jobs were not advertised at
going wage rates and that no effort was been made to train local
The United Steelworkers Union has accused HD Mining of
intentionally excluding most Canadian workers from jobs by
including Mandarin as a required language in postings.
Jobs now posted on the company's website do not require
Mandarin language skills and start at $25 an hour for mechanics.
The going rate for mine laborers in British Columbia is more
than $30 an hour, the union said.
HD Mining's first 13 foreign workers are due to arrive in
rural British Columbia this month, with more expected as the
project progresses. The company is currently doing bulk sampling
work at the project, which is still years away from production.