Friday, November 16, 2012
Guest Workers - Just Another Greasy Subsidy to the Fossil Fuelers
I have been truly dismayed by the near total lack of outrage over the Harper government's policies to allow foreign energy companies to import cheap, foreign labour to extract Canadian fossil fuel resources.
No matter how much lipstick you slap on that pig, it's just another greasy subsidy to the fossil fuelers, one of so many. In the mid- to long-term it's also a great way to drive down Canadian wages.
Whether it's 200-Chinese labourers brought in to mine coal in British Columbia or unknown numbers imported to extract bitumen from Athabasca, it's an indictment of the provincial and federal governments that permit it and the energy companies they serve.
The companies say they need to import workers because they can't get Canadians to do the work. What they really mean is that they can't get Canadians to do the work for what the energy companies want to pay. They don't like the law of supply and demand when it doesn't go their way. So they moan and whine to our corporatist governments for yet another subsidy - cheap, foreign labour.
There's another way to look at this. These companies need cheap, foreign labour because, even with all the other subsidies, paying the rates Canadians would demand for those jobs would undermine the economic viability of their production. The margins just aren't there, especially for bitumen. Only with negligible royalties, direct subsidies, cost deferrals and, now, guest workers can the bottom line be met. As Richard at Canadian Trends points out, the Tar Sands are already a positive drain on the Alberta economy. All these subsidies, guest workers included, are tricks, economic sleight of hand implemented by elected hucksters in service to the Fossil Fuelers.
Update - CTV News reports on an example in Northern B.C. of the guest worker problem.
The company advertised the jobs in Canada, as required, at rates $10-17 per hour less than jobs in nearby mines and stipulated that applicants must speak Mandarin. The majority owner of the mine is a Chinese company and its partner appears to be a Canadian subsidiary of a Chinese company.
That's the Harper way.