Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Foreign workers on Skytrain project treated unfairly: B.C. human rights ruling

with 2 comments

Canadian Press

Their headline – not mine. They mean The Canada Line. And a bigger blot on that name is hard to imagine.

The tribunal ruling ordered the companies to pay each worker the difference between the salary paid to them and the salary paid to others, as well as the difference in paid expenses.

The companies were also ordered to pay $10,000 to each worker for injury to their dignity.

Figures contained in the ruling showed substantial differences in pay. It said European workers were paid an average wage roughly twice the base net salary of the Latin American workers.

That would be quite enough you would have thought. But the CBC News last night was also reporting that the companies involved (SELI Canada Inc. and SNC Lavalin Constructors Inc) are going to appeal the ruling. So the unfortunate workers who have been discriminated against will not see any of the money that the tribunal has awarded them for this injustice. The companies say they were paid  “the same rate in Canada as the Canadian workers” – but the unions and the tribunal say that European workers were made paid more.

The B.C. Federation of Labour said Wednesday’s ruling sends a clear message that the rights of foreign workers in the province should be upheld.

“You can’t bring people from Third World countries, pay them less than you’re paying other people on the job site and expect that to be legal. It’s now illegal. It’s a form of racism,” president Jim Sinclair said.

When the BC government tells us that it is investing in the future of the province, it avoids discussing how much of the money flows to other places. There has already been quite a kerfuffle about BC Ferries buying German built ships. There have been related stories about other big projects in the region where foreign workers were employed – and either not paid properly or at all. (They were the water tunnel on the North Shore and the Golden Ears bridge). And of course the other common factor is that they are all P3 projects, where the private sector has a very strong incentive to cut costs. The suporters of P3s like to call that “private sector efficiencies”. This, based on what the tribunal found, is simply exploitation. And note too that these companies think it worth spending a lot more on lawyers than their own employees.

UPDATE Friday December 5

The Globe and Mail has the other side of the story, which I might have found more persuasive if Patrick Brethour had made an effort to at least appear like an objective reporter. This reads more like a pro-business opinion piece, but at least you can see why there is an argument.  As Canada’s unemployment rate is now increasing, perhaps our infrastructure builders won’t have to look quite so far afield in future.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 4, 2008 at 8:52 am

Posted in transit

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2 Responses

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  1. This is just one of many added costs to the RAV/Canada line. If Ms. Heyes succeeds in her court action against RAV et al, then the cost of the metro will climb some more.

    Malcolm J.

    December 4, 2008 at 1:37 pm

  2. This is one cost that the contractors cannot pass along. The impact will be felt by their shareholders, not the taxpayer – IF they have to pay. they clearly have no intention of paying at present

    Stephen Rees

    December 4, 2008 at 1:59 pm


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