Canadian Seafarers’ Union Files Two More Lawsuits over Cabotage Law Breaches

The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) has launched two new lawsuits challenging ongoing decisions by the country’s government to grant temporary work permits to foreign workers aboard two foreign-flagged tankers.

The two new SIU lawsuits challenge the temporary work permits granted to foreign workers aboard the Amalthea, a Greek flagged ship transporting oil on the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Atlantic Canada in August, and the New England, a chemical/oil tanker operating in the Maritimes last week.

Canadian-issued work permits show that the Amalthea sailed on the St. Lawrence Seaway between the Port of Montreal and the Maritimes at the end of August with foreign crew earning as little CAD 2 an hour, SIU says.

The government issued temporary work permits to all foreign crew on the Amalthea despite the law stipulating that ships carrying passengers or goods between Canadian ports (cabotage) may only use foreign workers if no qualified Canadian workers are available, according to SIU.

SIU says that 2,100 Canadian jobs have been lost as a result of the federal government not properly enforcing Canadian law requirements to date. Since 2013, the SIU estimates that approximately 4,000 temporary foreign work permits have been issued by the Government of Canada for domestic shipping despite 25 per cent of Canadian maritime workers being currently unemployed.

Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steven Blaney are both named as respondents in the lawsuit.

On September 8, SIU launched its initial lawsuit with regard to the Cyprian flagged Sparto, seeking a declaration that the temporary work permits should not have been issued to non-Canadian crew to work in Canada and the termination of those work permits.