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Migrant workers who built the Canada Line make history!

Posted: Friday, 1 January 2010

The Canada Line extension to Vancouver’s Skytrain Metro Rapid Transit is the crown jewel of 2010 Winter Olympic construction projects.

International construction giant SNC Lavalin was the lead contractor for the $2 billion project. SNC formed a joint partnership with the Italian firm SELI to excavate the final two kilometers of tunnel underneath downtown Vancouver. In early 2006 the SNCP-SELI partnership hired workers from Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, Portugal and Italy to operate the “tunnel boring machine”.

Originally, workers from Latin America worked 65 to 70 hours per week and were paid $1,000 US per month (net) — less than $5 per hour and were provided with motel accommodation and meal tickets.

Meanwhile, the workers from Europe were paid $6,500 US per month and were provided luxury condominium accommodations and a meal allowance.  Support the on-going legal battle by Latin American Canada Line workers.

Learn more about the case by visiting the BC Building Trades web site: www.bcbuildingtrades.org

The workers formed a union local after a successful unionization campaign. To avoid trouble, the company took preemptive action and raised their wages to just over $10 per hour (net).  The workers complained to the BC Human Rights Tribunal that their wages and conditions were discriminatory in comparison to the European workers.

After a lengthy process the Human Rights Tribunal ruled there was discrimination based on country of origin, and ordered the employer to pay the difference, roughly $50,000 each to 35 of the Latin American workers.

Read a letter sent to the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.