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Steelworkers gather in Langley to protest China mine workers

United Steel Workers Union members protest outside MLA Rich Coleman’s office about Chinese mine workers being brought to B.C. to take jobs that could be had here. The union said the protest at Coleman’s office is the start of many. - Monique TAMMINGA/Langley Times
United Steel Workers Union members protest outside MLA Rich Coleman’s office about Chinese mine workers being brought to B.C. to take jobs that could be had here. The union said the protest at Coleman’s office is the start of many.
— image credit: Monique TAMMINGA/Langley Times

The United Steelworkers kicked off a series of protests at MLA Rich Coleman’s office at Langley Events Centre on Friday afternoon.

It didn’t appear the minister of energy was at his constituency office, while about a dozen union members held signs outside his office.

The union members were there to oppose the use of temporary foreign workers coming from China to work in B.C. mines.

“The government and Christy Clark say we don’t have trained mine workers here in B.C. and that’s why we need to bring in workers from China.

“A lot of these jobs will be labour jobs, not technical. You are telling me that we don’t have those kind of workers in Canada?” asked USW president Manjit Sidhu.

He questions why Canadians weren’t even given the opportunity to apply for these jobs.

“How does this fit into the “Jobs for B.C. plan” the government spent millions of dollars on?” Sidhu asked.

This is the first in a series of protests that will travel to every corner of the province over the next month, including the Okanagan and the Island.

“This situation has a lot of people upset. We aren’t going away.”

He said the USW has tried to get answers from the government about how many workers are coming from China and how long they are staying and they aren’t getting answers.

“Are there hundreds? Are they staying for a few months or years? No one knows,” he said.

USW Western Canadian Director Steve Hunt says the union has been inundated with calls from members of the public, who are outraged over the provincial government’s support for hiring imported workers from China over British Columbians and Canadians.

Hunt says the union is turning up the heat on BC Liberal MLAs who are remaining silent, while their government sides with Chinese-owned mining companies.

“There are going to be people who drive by our protests and say ‘hey, I would take that job. I need that job,’” Sidhu said.

The federal government, which grants temporary work permits to foreign workers, is taking a second look at its decision to allow permit for the Chinese mine workers.

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