I am responding to the Steelworkers Union letter in your paper on November 15.
Unions and union reps play an important role in the employee-employer relationship, so I understand why Alex Hanson of the United Steelworkers would be concerned if he thought good jobs were going to Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW), rather than to available B.C. workers. I’d also understand if it made sense to train up British Columbians for these specific temporary jobs. In fact, if that were the case, I’d be upset too. However, the facts show a different story:
1. The federal government decided to allow 200 TFWs into B.C. from China because
underground coal mining has all but disappeared in Canada and there are no surplus qualified underground coal miners available.
2. Underground coal mining is extremely dangerous because of methane gas and coal dust. Surface coal mine workers and underground metal mine workers are generally not trained for this unique work and those who are trained, are already working.
3. The 200 Chinese underground coal miners are here for 4-6 months to take a bulk sample of coal for testing. If the coal proves to be of high quality, the company may choose to invest the hundreds of millions required to build an underground coal mine.
4. There will be no new mine and no new jobs for British Columbians, and no new training opportunities, unless the company makes the decision to build the first new Canadian underground coal mine in decades and that decision will not be made UNLESS these temporary foreign workers take the bulk sample.
5. If the company chooses to spend the hundreds of millions to build an underground coal mine, it will take two years to construct, an adequate time for Canadian workers to be trained for the opportunities.
6. It makes no sense for the tax payer to invest in years of training until we know there will be underground coal mines to work in. Only the NDP would start training for new mines that do not exist.
I respect unions and union reps, but let’s have these discussions about new jobs, business and skills training from a factual basis and keep the politics out of it.
MLA, Kootenay East