BACKGROUNDER: Government of Canada and Seafarers’ International Union of Canada settle lawsuits regarding CTMA use of Temporary Foreign Workers

December 17, 2019

December 17, 2019 – MONTREAL, QC

 

  • According to the federal government, “the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) was created as a last and limited resort to allow employers to bring foreign workers to Canada on a temporary basis to fill jobs for which qualified Canadians are not available.” Under the TFWP, work permits may only be issued for foreign workers if qualified Canadian citizens or permanent residents are not available to perform the work.

 

  • In 2015 and 2016, the Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) challenged the issuance of work permits to 55 foreign nationals on three foreign vessels, the Sparto, the New England, and the Amalthea. In July 2016, the Government of Canada admitted that it had improperly issued work permits to 11 foreign crew members of the New England, a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker engaged in cabotage in Canada. In February 2017, the SIU and the Government of Canada entered into a settlement agreement with respect to the work permits that had been issued to the foreign crew members of the Sparto and the Amalthea.

 

  • Pursuant to this settlement agreement, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) developed a Special Measures Policy for the Maritime Sector, which provides that any foreign vessel operator seeking to employ temporary foreign workers (TFWs) must obtain a letter of concurrence from the SIU, stating that there are or are not qualified Canadian citizens or permanent residents who are available to work on the foreign vessel in question. However, foreign vessels seeking to engage in cabotage in Canada for periods of 30 days or less were exempted from this policy.

 

  • Since 1972, the SIU has been the certified bargaining agent for all unlicensed employees (non-officers) employed on vessels operated by the Coopérative de transport maritime et aérien (CTMA). The CTMA operates a fleet of ships that transport persons and goods between the Magdalen Islands and other parts of Québec and Canada. The CTMA fleet includes the Madeleine, the Vacancier, the Voyageur, and the Clipper Ranger.

 

  • The SIU and the CTMA have entered into two collective agreements. These collective agreements provide that the CTMA may recruit personnel from the Magdalen Islands, but that if it is unable to do so, it must contact the SIU, and the SIU will supply personnel.

 

  • The SIU never consented to the CTMA bypassing or ignoring the provisions of its collective agreements concerning the process for hiring employees.

 

  • During the summer of 2019, the CTMA, without consulting the SIU, and in breach of the SIU-CTMA collective agreements, obtained work permits through the TFWP to allow seven foreign nationals to work on its vessels for 169 days. These foreign nationals commenced work in September 2019.

 

  • The CTMA operates a cruise ship service during the summer season. When the cruise ship ceases to operate, the CTMA lays off a substantial portion of its workforce. Between October 2, 2019 and November 6, 2019, the CTMA reduced its unlicensed workforce from 204 employees to 155 employees, a reduction of 24%. Thus, the seven TFWs commenced work shortly before the CTMA laid off 24% of its unlicensed workers.

 

  • The seven foreign nationals were hired for the following positions:
    • Dishwasher (2)
    • Kitchen Aide (1)
    • Oiler (1)
    • Ordinary Seaman (1)
    • Housekeeping Attendant (2)

 

  • On November 6, 2019, the SIU filed seven applications for judicial review with the Federal Court, challenging the decision of the Government of Canada to issue work permits for seven foreign nationals to work on vessels operated by the CTMA as TFWs. The lawsuits alleged that the work permits in this case were issued in contravention of the TFWP. The court file numbers are: IMM-6710-19, IMM-6711-19, IMM-6712-19, IMM-6713-19, IMM-6715-19, IMM-6719-19, and IMM-6720-19.

 

  • On December 16, 2019, the SIU and the Government of Canada settled the lawsuits. The terms of settlement provided that ESDC would amend the Special Measures Policy for the Maritime Sector to apply to both foreign-flagged and Canadian-flagged vessels. Thus, operators of Canadian-flagged vessels, such as the CTMA, who seek to employ TFWs must obtain a letter of concurrence from the SIU stating that there are or are not qualified Canadian seafarers who are available to work on the vessel in question. However, the exemption for vessels operating in Canada for 30 days or less will not apply with respect to Canadian-flagged vessels.

 

  • The SIU discontinued its lawsuits on December 16, 2019.

 

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SOURCE: Seafarers’ International Union of Canada

Related Links: www.seafarers.ca

 

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