New Canadian Media

The Federal government’s acknowledgement of the need for reforms of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program today is a result of years of migrant workers advocating for themselves and fighting against denial of their human and labour rights.

Migrant workers members of Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada (CMWRC), the representative body for migrant workers in 

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Commentary By Dan Kelly

With Canada's economy still stuck in what is best described as neutral, you would think Canadian workers would be clamouring to scoop up what are reported to be scarce jobs across the country.

We know there has been an exodus of workers beating a path towards the Calgary airport as the battered oil patch bleeds jobs and sends workers back to their home provinces.

We've seen this kind of labour mobility reversal before and will likely see it again as the resource sectors continue to go through boom-and-bust cycles, changing the patterns of labour market mobility within Canada.

But this kind of high-profile migration obscures the fact that localized and regionalized labour market shortages are in still in play in many locations across the country, including Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador. Employers continue to struggle to match open positions with qualified (and available) job candidates.

A 2014 report by Miner Management Consultants estimates a labour force shortage of close to 2 million workers in Canada by 2031. That's an entire major city's worth of workers. It is also important to note that many positions continue to sit vacant today in semi- or lower-skilled occupational job categories in which Canadians are not lining up to work. Many of which are in the agriculture and agri-food sector, including 90,000 anticipated shortages in agriculture and 32,500 anticipated in food processing, as of 2015.

It must be remembered that the official unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent only tells part of the labour story. The other part shows that the current job vacancy rate is 2.5 per cent, representing some 316,000 open full-time, part-time and temporary positions.

Although the vacancy rate is down from the fourth quarter of 2015, it shows that employers still have a hard time filling roles across all skill levels and sectors. This makes sense. A skilled oil-field services worker used to making $80,000 per year is not lining up to move to a rural community to take a job in a slaughter house or processing plant.

We also have the other phenomenon of our system pushing young people to achieve higher and higher levels of education, only to find they cannot find related employment despite their mountains of debt. While teaching is a noble profession, we continue to stream (and fund) thousands of young people into university education programs despite grim job prospects.

I'm pleased to report the new federal government is showing signs it better understands the disconnect between labour shortages and the unemployment rate than the previous one.

While the federal government has indicated it will conduct a wholesale review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), they also announced last month that they would temporarily ease restrictions for seasonal industries that use the TFWP, allowing them to bring in an unlimited number of workers for up to 180 days.

One of these days we're going to have to admit that even with wage hikes, terrific employers and focused recruiting, most Canadians remain unlikely to consider working at a fish plant or as a meat cutter, or even cleaning rooms at a hotel. If we're not going to take these jobs or encourage our kids to consider these jobs (but we still want these businesses in Canada), then we're best to allow some folks from elsewhere to come and take them.

Like many Canadians and international observers, I am proud to see the way Canadians rallied to welcome refugees from around the world. The significant bump in Syrian refugees to Canada is not only a credit to the new government, but provides a potential pool of labour for employers in months and years to come.

However, I remain concerned that the increase in refugee numbers has meant a cut in the number of economic immigrants Canada plans to welcome this year. Although the country is targeting up to 305,000 new permanent residents in 2016, the number categorized as economic immigrants is actually down from 2015. About 162,400 spots are guaranteed in this class, down from last year's 181,000. By contrast, the number of government-assisted refugees is up 284 per cent from 2015.There is serious work to do in order to tilt towards a growth-oriented immigration strategy, which includes a pathway to Canadian citizenship for temporary foreign workers. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business’s (CFIB) Introduction to Canada visa proposal is one such idea to replace the temporary foreign workers with a pathway to permanent residency.

Economic immigration has always been the lifeblood of Canada's economic success and has played a key role in the building of our great nation. While our immigration system has many goals, employers have a priority to ensure that immigrants of all skill levels are able to come to Canada for jobs where they struggle to find Canadians to fill them. I'm confident we can get there.

Dan Kelly is President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses, taking direction from more than 109,000 members.

By arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post

Published in Economy

  SADIQ Khan has won the London mayoral election, beating Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith, on second preference votes after failing to gain more than 50% in the first round, BBC reports. Khan said: “I’m so proud that Londoners have today chosen hope over fear and unity over division.” Goldsmith had tried every mean trick in the book, even […]

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by Jennifer Huang in Toronto

 

I recently read an article entitled “The New Chinese Working Class and the Canadian Left” by Justin Kong that reinvigorated a passion of mine – organizing immigrant workers. 

 

As Kong puts it, “the conditions for an immigrant left are ripe in the Chinese community.” 

 

Having spent the last four years working as an organizer with the Toronto & York Region Labour Council trying to organize Chinese union workers, you can understand my excitement when I read Kong’s article. 

 

Yes, you read correctly – I wasn’t organizing Chinese workers into unions; rather I was organizing “the already organized.” 

 

I wasn’t organizing Chinese workers into unions; rather I was organizing “the already organized.”

 

Much like Kong observed, the Chinese community was – and is – very much unengaged with the Canadian left. Looking around, I could see that there were in fact many Chinese Canadians who were union members, but did not self-identify as such.

 

Building trade union consciousness

 

At the Labour Council, we developed the Chinese Workers’ Network where we went around asking local unions to identify Chinese union members from within their ranks.

 

We invited these members to Chinese-language events where we did education work about the importance of unions, explained and de-mystified union structures and celebrated the many gains that the labour movement has achieved for Canada (debunking the myth that Canada is a benevolent country with good social programs that no one really had to struggle for). 

 

Last I checked, we had over 500 people identified on our database as Chinese. We developed a committee who would translate articles about workers’ struggles into Chinese, and put these up on our website.

 

[L]istening to the stories about their employer’s outrageous abuse and violation of human rights, I knew that our organizing efforts were not enough.

 

Even with the limited resources we had to dedicate towards this initiative, we’ve had tremendous success.

 

Perhaps the best example was when one group of Chinese workers contacted us to help them organize a union. One hundred per cent of the workers voted for a union, but listening to the stories about their employer’s outrageous abuse and violation of human rights, I knew that our organizing efforts were not enough. 

 

Engaging new immigrant workers

 

What we began at the Labour Council was only one side of a two-pronged approach. We need to continue this mobilizing externally into the community where workers are already organized – in their faith groups, community associations, sites of recreation and leisure, etc.

 

While I was working as an adult literacy instructor, some of my students found part-time work as community health ambassadors.

 

These students were specifically recruited because their first language was not English, so while they were trained in English to deliver health-related topics, they were expected to organize members in their own communities (using their own social networks) to deliver these workshops in their mother tongues. 

 

As I witnessed the effectiveness of this model at the time, I wondered why unions couldn’t adopt a similar community approach with many of the new immigrant workers?

 

If the Canadian labour movement is to survive and actually grow, all unions should be dedicating resources to develop a political left within immigrant communities.

 

These workshops would be advantageous not only to the worker learning about his/her rights, but could also offer an array of tips to unions about where organizing efforts should be focused. 

 

If the Canadian labour movement is to survive and actually grow, all unions should be dedicating resources to develop a political left within immigrant communities – and towards the goal of organizing workers into unions.

 

Central labour bodies in each region need to take a hard look to see which non-English speaking communities are their largest demographic, and recognize not all communities of colour are recent immigrants – some have been in Canada for a long time.

 

Organizing Chinese immigrant workers

 

There is a good opportunity right now to organize a left within Chinese immigrant workers, but we need leadership and more resources from all parts of organized labour to do this. 

 

Workers in the Chinese diaspora, who are underpaid and undervalued, often feel that they have no choice, but to accept their working conditions; otherwise they face unemployment or self-employment. They feel that they lack the language skills to find employment in the Canadian mainstream, or seek help to remedy their situation.

 

With Jason Kenney at the helm, the Conservatives have done a wonderful job of convincing Chinese Canadians they are watching out for their best interests.

 

It is precisely because workers find themselves in these situations of precariousness that the labour movement has an opportunity to engage them. To not do so is to our detriment. 

 

Our prolonged absence in any form of sustained engagement with the Chinese immigrant working class has already begun to bolster the ranks of the political right. With Jason Kenney at the helm, the Conservatives have done a wonderful job of convincing Chinese Canadians they are watching out for their best interests. 

 

Kong puts it best: “If we look throughout Canada’s history, we will see that incorporating immigrant workers has been central to the power of organized labour and the Canadian left. However, that this incorporation has often excluded immigrant workers who are not white men has always been an overarching, strategic misstep.”

 

A labour movement that is inclusive needs to create – and sustain – a welcoming space for all workers regardless of language, race, religion or accent. It is my hope to continue the discussion of how we might engage Chinese immigrant workers – but more broadly, all immigrant workers.


A child-immigrant herself, Jennifer Huang worked as an organizer at the Toronto & York Region Labour Council where she spearheaded the Chinese Workers’ Network (CWN). Its success spurred the creation of the other workers’ networks – Filipino, Tamil and Somali. 

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Commentary

by Justin Kong in Toronto

The results of the recent federal election shows that we need a better understanding of how immigrant groups are mobilized and integrated into formal spheres of Canadian politics. This two-part series focuses on the Chinese community in metropolitan areas of Canada. Part II examines the new Chinese working class, how conditions are ripe for the development of a Chinese left and what this all means for the Canadian left.

With the devastating electoral defeat of the New Democratic Party last month in the 2015 Federal Elections, it’s clear that the Canadian left must adjust their strategy. The new strategy needs to support the development of a progressive, grassroots immigrant power to counter the presence of more conservative and moderate elements within these communities.  

In the Chinese diaspora, while there are a number of strong progressive leaders at various levels of government and in the community at large, the presence of a mobilized, grassroots Chinese immigrant left has yet to be felt in recent years.

This lies partly in the fact that one group has long been unengaged: the Chinese immigrant working class. 

New wave of Chinese immigrants, new attitudes towards labour

Contrary to the common trope of the rich Chinese investor immigrant, one merely has to look around the many Chinese ethnic neighbourhoods in Toronto and Vancouver to see that there are actually tremendous populations of workers labouring in the ethnic economy. These workers are often engaged in the food and services industry in precarious conditions and without the full protection of employment laws and standards.

This population has long been here and has remained relatively unengaged by the mainstream left and organized labour. A small group find themselves in the progressive political spaces of community labour organizations such as the Workers Action Centre in Toronto. 

What has changed in recent years, however, is the composition of this Chinese working class and the increasing maturity of the Chinese diaspora in Canada. These two conditions have important ramifications for the possibility of a progressive Chinese element and the Canadian left at large.

In the past two decades the flow of Chinese immigrants, which had previously been largely dominated by those from Hong Kong and Taiwan, has shifted to a flow that is increasingly dominated by those from mainland China. 

Given that immigrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan have likely been here for a longer period of time it is more likely that they have attained more upward mobility with less ‘working class’ members. More importantly these groups have radically different pre-migration attitudes towards the left and labour politics than the new wave from China. 

This population has long been here and has remained relatively unengaged by the mainstream left and organized labour.

In Hong Kong, family histories of communist persecution, the infamous 1967 riots which linked trade unionism with social instability and communist insurgency, combine to stifle the possibility of broad labour politics amongst the Hong Kong populace. It should be no surprise then that Canadian labour politics will find it difficult to engage this group.

On the other hand, the new Chinese immigrant working class is largely composed of skilled professionals from mainland China who grew up in very different conditions. Growing up and living in Mainland China means this group has at the very least a basic understanding of concepts of class, capitalism and exploitation — important preconditions to any progressive and labour politics. 

With the economic rise of China and the proliferation of consumer culture, leftist politics may have had little salience amongst this population when they were still living in China. 

After immigrating the situation becomes different. Labouring in the deskilling, dehumanizing and precarious Canadian economy reignites in the Chinese worker the earlier internalizations of working class consciousness and left politics.

Due to these factors, this new Chinese working class, more than any previous Chinese wave, has the potential to constitute a progressive, left element within the Chinese diaspora in Canada.

Bridging the ethnic and the mainstream

As waves upon waves of Chinese immigrants have settled in Canada, the Chinese diaspora as a whole has become increasingly mature. This maturity manifests in an increasing number of potential progressive political leaders who are able to connect the mainstream with the ethnic.

These two developments together represent the fertile conditions for the development of a left grassroots counter presence in the Chinese community. In the absence of sustained engagement, this new Chinese working class may remain inactive in formal politics and quite possibly bolster the ranks of the political right and moderates.

Chinese churches, for example, appear to be making in-roads with this new Chinese working class. Grounded in the ethnic community through their ‘service’, Chinese churches in Toronto have initiated sermons and fellowship groups catered specifically to Chinese restaurant workers. For the left, such a development is illustrative of the extensive vacuum that exists.

This new Chinese working class has the potential to constitute a progressive, left element within the Chinese diaspora in Canada.

If we look throughout Canada’s history we will see that incorporating immigrant workers has been central to the power of organized labour and the Canadian left. However, that this incorporation has often excluded immigrant workers who are not white has always been an overarching, strategic misstep.

In order for the Canadian left to establish a foothold in immigrant communities for electoral struggles or otherwise, the establishment of grassroots strength within these communities is essential. To do this the immigrant working classes and political leadership of immigrant communities must be mobilized and connected with the mainstream left.

By supporting and building the emerging immigrant left is to reverse the decades of decline of the Canadian left. The conditions for an immigrant left is ripe in the Chinese community and it may likely be the case in other immigrant communities as well. All that remains for us to do is to come together and figure out how we can make it a reality — and that, of course, is the hard part.


Justin Kong studies sociology and is involved with community and labour organizing in Toronto.

Journalist Ranjit Bhaskar mentored the writer of this article, through the New Canadian Media mentorship program. 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary

by Deanna Cheng in Vancouver

During the 2015 election campaign, one issue remained imminent for many Canadians: how will the newly elected government improve the economy? But, a question less pondered, of interest to many immigrant communities is how will the government improve economic inequalities.

One economics professor from British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University recently pointed out which promises made by the major political parties in Canada made would lower inequality.

“Inequality is more about wealth than income,” professor Krishna Pendakur said during a public lecture in Burnaby earlier this month.

Wealth, he said, is money generated from stocks, bonds, etc., and income is based on labour.

Economic platforms

Pendakur said the Conservatives’ plan is vague when it comes to economic inequality  – more commonly referred to as the gap between the rich and the poor.

“They promise to grow the economy, to have a bigger pie, then a trickle-down effect,” he explained. “Whatever crumbles from this pie and falls down to the rest of the 99 per cent, that’s it.”

Pendakur said the Conservatives’ plan is vague when it comes to economic inequality.

Pendakur noted though that some trickle-down effect did happen with previous policies of low tax rates, low revenue and low public spending. “There was high skilled blue-collared incomes in Alberta while the party lasted.”

Looking to the Liberals and New Democrats, Pendakur said both parties promise to increase guaranteed income supplement, which is a good thing. The income supplement provides a monthly non-taxable benefit to Old Age Security recipients who have a low income and are living in Canada.

To get the supplement, the recipients must be legal residents in Canada and receiving the old age pension.

Addressing national inequality

Pendakur pointed out which policies each party promised would likely be most effective in addressing national inequality.

For the New Democratic Party (NDP), he said the two major ones are national subsidized childcare and national universal drug coverage. “Both are long term commitments and [Tom] Mulcair will need more than one election to see it through,” he commented.

"[F]or some, even if they’ve seen a doctor and the doctor has written the prescription, sometimes people can’t afford the treatment at the pharmacy. It’s the biggest cost to someone’s health.”

Pendakur said political parties are careful about what they can claim because there are certain jurisdictions which federal governments don’t have a lot of control over.

Health care is decided at the provincial level, so that is why the NDP chose pharmaceuticals, he said.

“It’s good because, for some, even if they’ve seen a doctor and the doctor has written the prescription, sometimes people can’t afford the treatment at the pharmacy. It’s the biggest cost to someone’s health.”

Minimal wage is also a provincial jurisdiction, Pendakur explained, which is why the NDP promised a minimum wage of $15 per hour for federal workers. “100,000 workers will be affected.”

Turning to the Liberals, he drew attention to the party’s promise to increase child benefits with lower implicit tax rates on them.

The party also said it would raise tax rates on personal income over $200,000 by four per cent and lower income tax rates for the middle class from 22 per cent to 20.5 per cent.

Privileging particular demographics

During the Q-and-A session, an audience member asked Pendakur what he thought about the Conservative party’s income-splitting tax plan.

“Income splitting is awful,” Pendakur replied.

[Pendakur] said [income splitting] values two-parent, two-income families and ignores every other demographic in the country.

He said the plan values two-parent, two-income families and ignores every other demographic in the country. “Why is this particular demographic worth more than others?”

University of Fraser Valley student Anoop Tatlay agreed with him.

“I couldn’t pinpoint what it was about the [income-splitting tax] proposal that bothered me, but once he said it, it clicked,” stated Tatlay, who is a single mother. “I’d thought the same thing.”

Pendakur presented complex information in an engaging manner, said Tatlay. The newfound knowledge she gained motivated her to look more closely at the federal budget and public spending and try to understand it better.

As a Canadian citizen, the 37-year-old resident of Mission, B.C. said she plans to vote on Oct. 19.

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Economy

by Shan Qiao (@dmaomao) in Toronto

Susan* felt lucky to land her first job as an interpreter a few months after settling in Ottawa. But the rollercoaster ride that followed – leaving her without payment after more than six months – left a bitter taste in her mouth.

Having emigrated from China two years prior, she had tried to find work through many employment agencies to no avail - despite her experience back home translating for several book clients and the New York Times’ Chinese-language website.

“I was so excited. I also felt anxious [about] some medical terms I might not be able to interpret . . .  Instead of checking reviews on this company, I started checking my dictionary.”

Finally, she got a reply from Able Translations Inc., through Canada’s national job hunt website indeed.ca, and soon after signed a freelance agreement with the Mississauga, Ontario–based company.

Not only was she delighted with the pay rate of $25 an hour, but also the fact that she was able to work even without an interpreter licence, which is required by many other companies in the language interpretation industry.

“Although I’m a professional in translation back in China, I have not yet had a licence here. I [had only been] here for a short time; I [needed] to find a job,” explains Susan, during a phone interview with New Canadian Media.

Able Translations sent an assignment on January 13, asking Susan to interpret at a physiotherapy clinic in Ottawa the next day for an insurance-related issue.

“I was so excited. I also felt anxious [about] some medical terms I might not be able to interpret . . .  Instead of checking reviews on this company, I started checking my dictionary,” explains Susan, admitting not doing a background check on Able was her biggest mistake.

According to Susan, the assignment went well – she satisfied the expectations of both the client and Able. She then signed a time sheet, filed an invoice, and waited for her first payment of $50. Upon signing the original agreement, she had opted for immediate payment versus the company’s default pay schedule, which issues earnings every two months.

Montero dismisses accusations Able tries to take advantage of bilingual immigrants hungry for professional jobs.

“I haven’t received any payment even right now,” she claims. “From sending them emails every two to three days to every week, I never got an answer. Every time [I called] someone [would] forward my calls to nowhere.”

Several other translators have posted comments narrating their experiences working with Able Translations, however, NCM was unable to corroborate their claims independently.

An unregulated industry

Julio Montero, in charge of Able Translations’ compliance and regulatory affairs, tells New Canadian Media the company never fails to pay anyone.

“When an interpreter doesn’t receive payment, it may be for a number of reasons,” he explains. “Some might not file the invoice properly, others may not sign the time sheet, or they unfortunately engaged in unprofessional [conduct].” He adds interpreters who are biased or show up late for a job are not compensated.

As for why the company would hire someone without a license, Montero explains: “Unfortunately, the language industry in Canada is not a regulated profession. It is not illegal for you to work as an interpreter. We have certain standards . . . We hire accredited interpreters. It is someone who has a combination of knowledge, experience and certain accreditation.”

He also explains that, based on a client’s urgency to hire an interpreter as well as the availability of the interpreters, Able will sometimes opt for less qualified candidates.

Montero dismisses accusations Able tries to take advantage of bilingual immigrants hungry for professional jobs. He stresses that the company has hundreds of freelance interpreters and translators and most of them are second-generation Canadians.

“No one is perfect. We recently went through a transition in [our] accounting system. Sometimes payments may slip through cracks,” Montero explains. He encourages people who have payment issues with the company to contact him directly.

Not ‘an industry for new immigrants’

Lola Bendana, president of national member organization Language Industry Association (AILIA), stresses the importance of gaining proper training and licensing in Canada.

“Being bilingual doesn’t necessarily mean being able to interpret or translate . . . you also need to understand many social contexts and Canadian culture.” - Julie Li, interpreter

“We don’t have legal authority to arbitrate a financial settlement,” Bendana says.

Professionalization and professional practice is what AILIA usually recommends to people, continues Bendana.

“Sign a contract with an organization, stop working for the company if you don’t get paid,” she advises, adding people claiming not to be paid can decide to go to small claims court and file an official financial dispute.

Bendana also indicates that, back in 2006, Seneca College launched the first of its kind training course for the language interpretation industry, and since then many other colleges have started to offer the program.

The Language Interpretation Training Program, a 180-hour certificate course to train interpreters designed by the Ontario Council on Community Interpreting, is a step toward professionalization and standardization of the industry.

Julie Li (pictured left), a Toronto-based interpreter, has finished one and a half years of the training program at Seneca College and has already obtained a basic Community Interpretation Licence. She currently works with MCIS Language Services and 911 Emergency Services.

“Being bilingual doesn’t necessarily mean being able to interpret or translate,” Li says. “I don’t even think this is an industry for new immigrants because you also need to understand many social contexts and Canadian culture.”

Hearing about Susan’s case, Li says it should be treated as a common labour dispute like in any other industry, but adds, “Unlicensed job seekers are prone to be ripped off because there are always companies [that] want to target them.”

*Susan’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Education

THE redesigned Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) is accepting applications again effective July 2, 2015. The PNP has reopened after a 90-day pause that allowed the PNP to be redesigned so the Province could maximize the impact of its allocation of 5,500 nominees from the federal government for 2015. The redesign shifts the program’s focus to […]

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MONTREAL — The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has denounced a major Quebec labour federation’s decision to join the...

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Wednesday, 18 March 2015 13:24

Site C Jobs Should Be Open to All in B.C.

The concept of time travel got a big boost in the 18th century when writer H.G. Wells authored one of his most notable science fiction works, The Time Machine. Last week, the B.C. building trades’ unions made its own fantastical pitch for traveling back in time.

The building trades unions asked the court to bring the province back 50 years to a time when workers in their hiring halls were prioritized over all other workers on public infrastructure projects. They called on the government to abandon plans for the managed open-site model of the Site C hydroelectric dam megaproject and adopt an outdated closed-shop model

The Closed-Shop Model

At a time when we need to maximize access to skilled labour in the province, a closed-shop model would essentially hand building trades unions a monopoly on the largest public infrastructure project in B.C. history. 

The B.C. building trade unions are nostalgic for the uncompetitive, unfair, and untenable closed-shop agreements of the 1960s and 1970s. This model had project owners negotiate the terms of the project labour agreement with a union or a group of unions. Then contract bidding was allowed only to those contractors who already had agreements with the signatory unions. 

In some cases, only members of those building trades unions were allowed access to work. In others, alternative union and non-union workers had to pay dues to the building trades unions in order to work on the project, irrespective of their choice of labour representation.

As a province we can’t afford to go back in time.
 

This approach had clear drawbacks. To begin with, it discriminated against workers who had chosen to be represented by a different union; plus, it discouraged these workers from contributing their expertise to the project due to these additional barriers to entry for the work. 

Canada’s labour market has also evolved dramatically since the 1960s to include a richer diversity of players: traditional craft unions, alternative unions, and non-union labour organizations. The diversity of players in the labour market has created a path for a managed open-site model.

The Managed Open-Site Model

What B.C.’s building trades unions don’t want you to know is that managed open-site models have been employed successfully on many major infrastructure projects in British Columbia. It’s a model that has worked for both public and private sector projects including BC Hydro’s Ruskin Dam and the Interior to Lower Mainland Transmission Line.

[W]e must all focus on working together to meet the labour challenges ahead.

On these projects, CLAC workers, non-unionized contractors, and Building Trades subcontractors worked alongside one another. With this model, the question was never which workers can we exclude, but how many skilled British Columbians can we put to work. As a result, project owners have seen an improved labour supply, budget savings and greater hiring flexibility.

While Premier Christy Clark has recognized the fundamental rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights, she should also continue to support fair access to work and uphold the managed open-site model for the Site C megaproject. BC Hydro simply can’t shut out skilled workers when the province is expecting one million job openings by 2020. 

As a province we can’t afford to go back in time. 

Managed open sites are critical to the success of Site C and future major infrastructure projects because they create jobs for British Columbians and help build a prosperous future for our province’s economy.

With considerable plans on the horizon for B.C., especially in the LNG sector, government, industry and union players must have an eye to the future and not the past; we must all focus on working together to meet the labour challenges ahead.


David Prentice is the Provincial Director CLAC BC, which is a multi-sector union representing over 60,000 workers in almost every sector.

Reprinted with permission from the Asian Pacific Post.

Published in Economy
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Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

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The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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