Canadian union wins suit over permits for foreign seafarers

The following is the text of a news release from the Seafarers' International Union of Canada (SIU):

(MONTREAL) — The government of Canada has admitted that it illegally issued work permits to 11 foreign crewmembers of the New England, a Marshall Islands flag of convenience oil tanker that engaged in shipping in Canada in July 2015. As a result, the government consented to an order of the Federal Court of Canada granting judicial review in all 11 applications made by the Seafarers’ International Union of Canada and further agreed to an order of the court setting aside the work permits.

This represents the first time that a union in Canada has succeeded in receiving an order of the Federal Court granting judicial review in connection with work permits issued to foreign workers and a further order setting aside those work permits.

In September 2015, the SIU filed 42 lawsuits alleging that the government of Canada was systematically issuing work permits to the foreign crews of hundreds of foreign ships engaging in shipping in Canadian waters, despite the availability of qualified Canadian seafarers to serve on these vessels in contravention of immigration laws. The SIU has produced evidence that some of these foreign workers are making as little as $2 per hour while working in Canada. In July 2016, the SIU filed an additional 13 lawsuits with similar allegations.

SIU President James Given said, “It is outrageous that temporary foreign workers are being granted work permits to crew these oil tankers, while qualified Canadian seafarers are unemployed. This is a big win for our members, who are trained and available to crew these oil tankers. The SIU will keep fighting until these flag of convenience vessels shipping in Canadian waters are crewed by Canadian seafarers.”

The SIU still has 44 outstanding lawsuits challenging the federal government’s issuance of work permits to the foreign crews of two other vessels, the Cyprus-flagged Sparto and the Greek-flagged Amalthea.

By Professional Mariner Staff