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Seafarers’ union reaches deal on foreign workers on ferries

A CTMA ferry that travels between Îles de la Madeleine and Souris, P.E.I. is seen in this promotional photo from the company.
A CTMA ferry that travels between Îles de la Madeleine and Souris, P.E.I. is seen in this promotional photo from the company.
OTTAWA, Ont. —

A month after launching seven lawsuits against the federal government, a union representing sailors across Canada has reached a settlement.

In November, the Seafarers’ International Union filed seven applications for judicial review with the Federal Court after learning the Quebec-based company Coopérative de Transport Maritime et Aérien (CTMA) had been given the green light by the federal government to issue work permits to hire seven foreign nationals from Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The positions were for housekeepers, dishwashers, kitchen aides, oilers and general seamen.

CTMA operates a fleet of vessels that serve the Magdalen Islands, a small archipelago in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, including a ferry that operates between Souris, P.E.I., and Capaux- Meules.

The lawsuits alleged that the work permits were issued in contravention of the program, which was created as a last resort to allow employers to bring foreign workers to Canada on a temporary basis only if the company can prove that qualified Canadian citizens or permanent residents are unavailable to fill the job. The union argued in the CTMA case, there was no communication from the company that they were looking to hire.

But in a statement released Tuesday, the union said they have reached a settlement with Employment and Social Development Canada. The union says a change in policy will require all employers seeking to use temporary foreign workers on Canadian-flagged vessels to seek a letter of concurrence from the union stating that there are no qualified or available Canadians to serve as crew prior to approval being issued work permits. Foreign vessels seeking to operate between Canadian ports for periods of 30 days or less are exempted from this policy.

Patrice Caron, executive vice-president of the Seafarers’ International Union of Canada, said he’s happy with the settlement and believes the change in policy will provide 100 per cent protection to Canadian seafarers.

“We're not going to stop a vessel from operation. If we can't find anyone, we're going to agree to temporary foreign workers,” Caron told SaltWire.

“But if there is one (Canadian) that is not working, then that Canadian should be Number 1 on top of the list to get the job.”

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