Maritime workers challenge temporary foreign work permits
issued by Harper Government
Two Federal Ministers named in lawsuits for failing to protect Canadian jobs
September 16, 2015 – Montreal, QC – The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) has launched two new lawsuits challenging ongoing decisions by the Harper government to grant temporary foreign work permits to foreign maritime workers crewing foreign ships operating in Canadian waters. Canadian law requires that ships carrying passengers or goods between Canadian ports (“cabotage”) may only use foreign workers if no qualified Canadian workers are available.
Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steven Blaney are both named as respondents in the lawsuit.
“Qualified Canadian maritime workers have lost more than two thousand jobs,” said SIU President Jim Given. “They have been replaced by temporary foreign workers earning just $2 an hour.” The Harper government continues to misuse its authority, says to Given, to grant temporary foreign work permits to foreign workers while passing over Canadian sailors who are ready to work.
To date, 2,100 Canadian jobs have been lost as a result of the federal government not properly enforcing Canadian law requirements. Since 2013, the SIU estimates that approximately 4,000 temporary foreign work permits have been issued by the Government of Canada for domestic shipping despite 25 per cent of Canadian maritime workers being currently unemployed.
The two new SIU lawsuits challenge the temporary work permits recently granted to foreign workers aboard the Amalthea, a Greek flagged ship transporting oil on the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Atlantic Canada in August, and the New England, a chemical/oil tanker operating in the Maritimes last week.
Canadian-issued work permits show that the Amalthea sailed on the St. Lawrence Seaway between the Port of Montreal and the Maritimes at the end of August with foreign crew earning as little $2 an hour. The Harper Government issued temporary work permits to all foreign crew on the Amalthea despite the law stipulating that temporary work permits can only be issued if qualified Canadian workers are not available.
The issue of foreign sailors being granted permits to work in Canada while taking jobs from qualified Canadians continues to be ignored by the Harper government. The SIU has written repeatedly to government on this issue since the beginning of 2013. Recently SIU has intensified its efforts, writing dozens of letters to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander, Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney, and Minister of Employment and Social Development Pierre Poilievre and their officials regarding their failure to enforce immigration law and protect Canadian jobs. To date, no acknowledgement has been made and no action has been taken.
On September 8, SIU launched its initial lawsuit with regard to the Cyprian flagged Sparto, seeking a declaration that the temporary work permits should not have been issued to non-Canadian crew to work in Canada and the termination of those work permits.
Tel: 905-227-5212 ext. 221
- Amalthea foreign crew list and sample TFW work permit (PDF Document)
- Copy of three TFW contracts on the Amalthea (PDF Documents)
*Please note that workers’ personal information was blacked out for privacy reasons
- Letters to Canadian Border Services Agency and PF Collins (ship owner) regarding
availability of Canadian workers (PDF Document)
- Canadian Transportation Authority Decision to issue a Coasting Trade Licence for the Amalthea:
External Link: https://www.otc-cta.gc.ca/eng/ruling/258-w-2015
BACKGROUND ON AMALTHEA:
The Amalthea is an oil tanker registered in Greece and sailing under the flag of Greece. It is a “foreign ship” within the meaning of the Coasting Trade Act. Commencing in mid-August and ending in mid-September, the Amalthea transported approximately 450,000 barrels of crude oil from Texas, USA for discharge at Montreal, Quebec, and in various ports in Atlantic Canada on behalf of Suncor Energy Products Inc.
None of the Amalthea’s crew are Canadian residents or citizens, yet the Government of Canada has issued work permits to Amalthea’s crew without first conducting a Labour Market Impact Assessment to review whether Canadians are available to crew this vessel.
Link to Amalthea lawsuit (PDF Document):
BACKGROUND ON NEW ENGLAND:
The New England is an oil tanker registered in the Marshall Islands and sailing under the flag of convenience of the Marshall Islands. The New England is a “foreign ship” within the meaning of the Coasting Trade Act. In 2015 alone, the New England has been granted 4 special licences by the Canadian Transportation Agency to transport crude oil between Canadian ports in Atlantic Canada.
None of the New England’s crew are Canadian residents or citizens, yet the Government of Canada has been regularly issuing work permits to New England’s crew without first conducting a Labour Market Impact Assessment to review whether Canadians are available to crew this vessel.
Link to New England lawsuit (PDF Document):
The applications for judicial review filed with the Federal Court today seek to quash the work permits recently issued by the Canadian Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) to foreign crew members of the Amalthea and New England. The Coasting Trade Act restricts the transportation of passengers or goods between Canadian ports to Canadian registered ships (“cabotage”). However, a special licence may be issued by the Canadian Transportation Agency to permit a foreign flagged vessel to engage in Cabotage in Canada if no Canadian vessel is available.
Since 2013, over 260 special permits have been issued to foreign ships to engage in Cabotage in Canada. The fact that a ship is able to operate in Canada, does not provide a legal right for the crew to work in Canada. Like all non-permanent residents or non-Canadian citizens, foreign crew must first be issued valid work permits before they work in Canada. The Government of Canada has routinely been issuing work permits to foreign crew, without first requiring a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIAs”) determining, among other things, whether there are qualified and available Canadians to perform the work. The SIU’s lawsuits allege that this contravenes immigration law in Canada and, specifically, the Regulations under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that require a LMIA determination prior to issuing a work permit.
The lawsuit names the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada Steven Blaney, as the minister responsible for the CBSA, as it is the federal agency charged with ensuring Canada’s security and prosperity by managing the access of people and goods to and from Canada. The lawsuit also names the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada Chris Alexander, as Citizenship Immigration Canada (“CIC”) is the federal agency that screens and processes temporary foreign worker applications for Canada. The CBSA and CIC have a joint operational mandate to enforce the immigration laws and regulations of Canada with respect to issuing work permits to foreign workers including Foreign Crew, with CIC holding the primary policy mandate.
About the Seafarers International Union of Canada
The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) has been representing seafarers working aboard vessels on Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, East Coast and West Coast since 1938. SIU members have acquired the reputation of being amongst the best-trained and most qualified sailors in the world. SIU represents over 3500 qualified, Canadian seafarers across Canada.