Canadian coal miners stiffed by American mine owners


WHEN IS AN AMERICAN WORTH MORE THAN A CANADIAN? When he works digging coal in Cape Breton. Then he’s worth more than twice as much.

American-owned Kameron Coal offered high salaries, bonuses and benefits in its Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton—but only for American workers. The company misused the federal government foreign temporary worker program to do it.

The company was originally allowed to hire temporary foreign workers because it said it couldn’t find enough Canadians to fill positions at the only underground coal mine in the country.

No Canadians need apply

The American-owned company then offered U.S. employees between 60 and 120 per cent more in salaries and up to 60 per cent more in overtime, plus a range of other cash bonuses and benefits. It did not make the same offer to any Canadian workers.

In at least two cases, Americans got jobs at more then twice the rate offered Canadians: $77 an hour for Americans; 32-35 an hour for Canadians.

The company paid $104,000 more to one salaried position, originally offered at $88,000.

Several American employees were also offered cash bonuses for signing, housing bonuses and retention bonuses of up to $20,000 a year, in addition to paid pensions and health benefits.

Late last year, Kameron Coal laid off more than a third of its employees.

A 2016 investigation by Service Canada resulted in Kameron Coal being fined  $230,000 and receiving a 10-year ban on bringing in foreign temporary workers.

The sanctions were reduced last year to a $54,000 fine and a one-year ban on using temporary foreign workers.

Kameron Coal has since appealed the sanctions to the Federal Court.

‘This isn’t a surprise to us,’ says union rep

The United Mine Workers of America is trying to organize the Donkin miners.

Gary Taje, the UMWA’s international representative in Canada, said the union has always opposed the use of foreign workers at the Donkin mine.

It’s no surprise the company is facing federal sanctions, he said.

“We knew there was an investigation of the temporary foreign workers,” Taje said. “We weren’t exactly sure what it was about, but this isn’t a surprise to us that they’ve done this.

“In November, they fired a number of Canadian workers, some of whom were tradesmen, and left temporary foreign workers there. I think that in itself should have been a violation.”

Taje said there are plenty of qualified Canadian miners more than ready and able to fill the jobs at Donkin.

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