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'I want to make my life in Canada': Union considering legal action after job cuts strand Irish steelworkers in B.C.

Date

2014-02-18

Authors

Frank Luba

Newspaper title

The Province

Full text

A B.C. union is considering legal options to help a non-union, foreign worker who was fired by a Lower Mainland company before his contract expired.

Irish steelworker Patrick Carroll was hired by Lower Mainland Steel but fired Feb. 2, well before his two-year deal was to have been up in August.

He was told LMS was “restructuring,” but he contends the non-union company got rid of him for speaking to the Ironworkers’ Union.

“I’m a good worker,” said Carroll, 60. “We don’t laze about.”

Now, business agent Doug Parton of Local 97 of the Ironworkers Union said his organization is looking into taking legal action on behalf of Carroll while also searching for work for him in Alberta.

LMS was called for its perspective on the allegations Monday, but chief operating officer Norm Streu was identified as the only person who could speak for the company and described as away on business.

Carroll was brought to Canada under the federal Labour Market Opinion program, where employers have to show a need for the worker and demonstrate there is no Canadian available for the job.

The foreign worker can work only for the company that applied for the LMO, so Carroll is sitting in his Langley motel room and running out of money.

“I was broke coming over here,” he said.

He had hoped to make a new life in Canada by moving from the LMO to applying for the Provincial Nominee Program to get citizenship.

“I want to get a job here,” he said. “I’ve got nothing to go back to Ireland for. I want to make my life in Canada.”

But he spoke to the Ironworkers, whose wages and benefits are better than the $28 per hour he was making with LMS.

That, he alleges, led to his firing.

“It’s because they wanted to make an example of us,” said Carroll.

In a similar situation to Carroll is David Bowler, 41, of County Limerick in Ireland.

He was on his second 12-month contract with LMS and also believes he was fired for speaking to the Ironworkers.

“The only reason we were given was ‘restructuring,’” Bowler said of his firing.

He had also hoped to stay longer and possibly bring his young family to Canada.

“I feel like we’ve been mistreated,” said Bowler, who can’t afford to stay in Canada without working.

The Ironworkers’ Parton is usually more focused on protecting the jobs of members of his union, but he doesn’t believe Carroll was treated very well.

“This is about right is right and wrong is wrong,” said Parton.

His union supports job training so B.C. workers can fill B.C. jobs, but there are times when foreign workers could be needed.

But getting foreign workers might be tougher if word gets out about how some them have been treated, said Parton.

“We don’t want the message getting back to Ireland that, ‘Yeah, don’t go to Canada, they’ll use you and abuse you and then toss you aside like a piece of garbage.”’

B.C. employers went to Ireland last fall looking for skilled workers to fill some of the one million jobs expected to be available in B.C. over the next decade.

Jinny Sims, the Newton-North Delta MP who is the NDP employment and social development critic, is pressing the federal government for changes to temporary foreign worker program.

As it stands, the government doesn’t even release the names of companies that have been allowed to hire such workers.

While believing that Canadians should be hired for Canadian jobs or that jobs be filled by immigration, Sims also thinks foreign workers should be treated fairly.

“It’s a very shoddy way to run a temporary foreign worker program,” said Sims.

“They’re more vulnerable and we don’t give them any rights,” she said of those workers. “It’s very worrying.”

fluba@theprovince.com

twitter.com/frankluba

Links

Economic sectors

Construction trades helpers and labourers and Occupations in manufacturing and utilities - general

Content types

Documented cases of abuse

Target groups

Public awareness

Geographical focuses

British Columbia

Languages

English