SIU of Canada Sues Agency To Protect Maritime Jobs


October 2015


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The Seafarers International Union of Canada has launched multiple lawsuits against the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), due to the government granting temporary work permits to foreign- flagged, foreign-crewed vessels operating in Canadian waters.


In Canada, the Coasting Trading Act (a cabotage law) requires that ships carrying passengers or goods between Canadian ports may only use foreign workers if no qualified Canadian workers are available. The lawsuits contest that work permits granted to crews aboard the foreign oil tankers Sparto, Amalthea and New England were issued illegally due to Canadian cabotage laws. The lawsuits seek declarations that the work permits should not have been issued and also seek the termination of those work permits.


“The government of Canada has allowed foreign workers to take 2,100 jobs from qualified Canadian maritime workers,” said SIU of Canada President Jim Given. “The federal government continues to misuse their authority to grant temporary work permits to foreign workers, while passing over Canadian sailors who are ready to work.” The SIU Atlantic, Gulf, Lakes and Inland Waters (AGLIW) is affiliated with the SIU of Canada through parent organization Seafarers International Union of North America, abbreviated as SIUNA.


Since 2013, the SIU of Canada estimates that approximately 4,000 temporary foreign work permits have been issued by the Canadian government for domestic shipping, despite an unemployment rate among Canadian maritime workers of 25 percent.


“The government of Canada is willfully ignoring the law and giving up on qualified, ready-to-work Canadian workers,” added Given. “We cannot sit by and watch while foreign workers are being given work permits and are paid as little as $2 an hour to work on ships in Canadian waters.”


Canadian-issued work permits show that the Amalthea, a Greek-flagged ship, 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 as $2 an hour.


The initial lawsuit challenged the temporary permits granted to foreign workers aboard the Sparto, an oil tanker sailing under the runaway flag of Cyprus. Since the beginning of 2015, the Sparto has been granted permission 10 separate times to ship crude oil on the St. Lawrence Seaway and Gulf of St. Lawrence, between the Maritime Provinces and Montreal.


When it was discovered that the Amalthea and the New England were also operating in Canadian waters, the legality of those work permits was also called into question by the SIU of Canada. 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 lawsuits.


The SIU of Canada has made numerous attempts to contact federal government officials around Ottawa’s failure to enforce immigration law in connection with issuing work permits to foreign crew. At press time, no acknowledgement has been made and no action has been taken. The next step in the legal battle will be for the court to schedule a hearing on the matter.


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