B.C.’s low-wage migrant coal mining jobs send us back to the future – by Thomas Walkom (Toronto Star – October 13, 2012)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Early on in the 20th century, the silver and gold mines of Northern Ontario imported thousands of foreign workers. The mine owners said they were filling a labour shortage. But their real reason was to keep wages down.

So when native-born, anglophone miners went on strike in Cobalt or the Porcupine region, the owners shipped in French-Canadians. And when they went on strike, Finns were brought in and, after them, Ukrainians and Poles and Italians and Englishmen from Cornwall.

In every case, the point of the exercise was to bring in workers who were less likely to make common cause with those already there and who, therefore, would be willing to work for less.

It was an ugly time in our history and it gave rise to very ugly labour disputes. So it is depressing in the extreme to see employers, aided and abetted by the federal government, engage in the same discredited tactics.

The latest and most bizarre example comes from British Columbia where, as the Vancouver Sun has reported, four brand new coal mines in the province’s northeast are bringing in just under 2,000 temporary Chinese migrants to do most of the work.

The ostensible reason, a spokesman for Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc. is reported as saying, is that not enough Canadians are skilled enough to do underground mining.

Let me repeat that. Not enough underground miners. In Canada.

Those who spent their working lives underground in Northern Ontario, or Quebec or Saskatchewan or Cape Breton would be surprised to hear this.

And while mining has changed from the days of pick and shovel, it is hard to believe that only temporary migrant workers are clever enough to run the new machinery used to extract coal.

I expect the real reason that Canadian Dehua and its Chinese partners want to bring in Chinese miners is because they figure on getting more work for less money from them.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1270570–walkom-b-c-s-low-wage-migrant-coal-mining-jobs-send-us-back-to-the-future

 

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