SIU Canada Wins Lawsuit Over Foreign Crew Permits

The tanker New England, whose crew were the subject of the lawsuit (video still)

By MarEx 2016-07-15 21:12:10

The Seafarers International Union of Canada announced Thursday that the Canadian government will suspend and review the work permits of 11 foreign crew members of the Marshall Islands-flagged product tanker New England, pursuant to a federal court order. 

The SIU said that it was the first time that a Canadian union has obtained an order of the Federal Court granting judicial review of work permits issued to foreign workers and a further order setting aside those work permits.

The order represents the outcome of over 40 lawsuits the union filed last September which claimed that the government was improperly issuing work permits for hundreds of foreign-flagged vessels operating in Canadian waters. SIU contended that there were enough qualified Canadian mariners to fill these positions, making the permits a breach of immigration laws. At the time of the filing, SIU President Jim Given said that the government had given as many as 2,100 positions to foreign workers instead of Canadian seafarers. "The Federal Government continues to misuse their authority to grant temporary work permits to foreign workers, while passing over Canadian sailors who are ready to work,” he said.

The union has recently filed a follow-on round of an additional 13 lawsuits – bringing the number outstanding to 44 active cases before the court. 

“It is outrageous that temporary foreign workers are being granted work permits to crew these oil tankers, while qualified Canadian seafarers are unemployed, said Given. "This is a big win for our members, who are trained and available to crew these tankers."

Canadian cabotage law generally forbids foreign-flagged ships from participation in coastal trades, although it does make provision for waiver licenses and contains several limited exemptions for American ships.