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In what is being described as “major victory for the SIU of Canada and its members,” the union announced Wednesday a settlement with the Government of Canada regarding a series of lawsuits filed during 2015 and 2016 claiming Canadian mariners were denied their legal opportunity to work on vessels sailing within its domestic waters.

The union filed 42 suits during 2015 claiming the government was issuing work permits for foreign mariners aboard hundreds of foreign-flag vessels engaged in shipping in Canadian waters, which was in violation of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Under Canadian law, domestic mariners are supposed to take over crew duties when a foreign-flag, foreign-crewed ships plies that nation’s waterways, unless no qualified mariners are available. In that case, the foreign mariners granted the work permits are to be paid according to Canadian wage standards.

In its investigation of the issuance of these work permits, the SIU of Canada uncovered foreign mariners being paid “as little as $2.41 per hour while working in Canada, when they should have been paid the Canadian prevailing wage,” according to a news release from the union.

The SIU of Canada filed an additional 13 suits with similar allegations during 2016, before the government admitted in July it had improperly issued work permits to foreign crewmembers of a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker. The Canadian Federal Court granted the union’s judicial review applications and set aside 11 work permits issued to that ship’s crew.

“After 18 months of litigation, I am very happy to see the government finally agree to what we sought all along – enforcement and a review of the rules with the full participation of the SIU of Canada,” proclaimed SIU of Canada President Jim Given, who also serves as the MTD Eastern Area Executive Board Member.

“We are confident that the terms of the settlement will lead to hundreds of jobs for Canadian seafarers who are qualified and available to crew marine vessels of all sizes and types,” Given added.

The settlement terms include:

  • Conduct a full review of the Employment and Social Development Canada’s TFWP policies and procedures as they relate to the employment of Temporary Foreign Workers aboard foreign-flag vessels engaged in Canadian domestic shipping. Employment and Social Development Canada will consult with the SIU of Canada regarding the format of stakeholder discussions and the union will have a seat at the table;
  • Immediately issue an interim practice directive to Employment and Social Development Canada officers to enforce requirements under TFWP requiring employers looking to hire foreign workers to crew vessels to first advertise the positions to Canadian seafarers to prove there are no available Canadian seafarers, and to also require documentation from employers seeking an exemption from minimum advertising requirements; and
  • Carefully consider and commence investigations into the union’s allegations that seafarers admitted to work in Canada as Temporary Foreign Workers are not being paid the proper Canadian prevailing wage and, in some cases, are being paid below the Canadian minimum wage.