To the Editor:
As a participant in B.C.’s mining sector, CLAC is deeply concerned about the B.C. governments’ recent statements about the lack of skilled mining workers and the need for Chinese workers to mine coal in the northeast part of the province. In response, CLAC calls on the B.C. government to work with trade unions to find safe and constructive solutions to the province’s skilled labour needs.
Every effort needs to be made to see that local hires, including under-represented groups such as youth, first nations and women, have every opportunity to access these new jobs. B.C. workers need this kind of employment opportunity, and they should be at the head of the line for such positions.
CLAC has consistently called on governments and employers to implement hiring policies that put Canadian workers first. CLAC believes that creative and constructive solutions to skilled labour shortages do exist, and these solutions are simply good economic policy. For example, CLAC supports better relocation incentives and fly in/fly out policies that allow available skilled workers from one province to easily relocate or take available work in B.C. without unnecessary barriers or red tape. Such policies would give B.C. employers better access to any available Canadian workers who do have the required mining experience and expertise.
In addition, CLAC believes that far more needs to be done in the training of apprentices. Also, if B.C. does not have sufficient skilled labour to meet the needs of its mining sector, the B.C. government should work in partnership with the province’s educational institutions and trade unions to create the required apprenticeship programs to meet these needs. In short, every possible avenue to facilitate the hiring of B.C. and Canadian workers first should be pursued.
At CLAC worker safety is paramount. Since many of the companies involved in these new B.C. mining ventures do not adhere to Canadian standards of health and safety in their home country, CLAC is concerned about a possible lack of worker safety for workers employed by these foreign companies.
While some Canadian workers may learn from the mining expertise brought to us from skilled Chinese workers, some Chinese employers have much to learn about Canadian health and safety standards and how these are applied in the underground mining sector. Given the remoteness of the new mines regular safety inspections will be costly and time-consuming. CLAC calls on B.C. government to adequately resource the inspection process so that all workers will have a safe workplace that meets or exceeds the current safety regulations.
As an independent Canadian trade union, CLAC is committed to working in partnership with all levels of government to find safe and constructive ways of addressing Canada’s need for skilled workers both now and in the future.
Fort St. John