Donkin mine drops appeal of sanctions for overpaying temporary foreign workers


The operator of the Donkin coal mine in Cape Breton has abandoned a court appeal and is accepting strong federal sanctions for overpaying temporary foreign workers.

A 2016 Service Canada investigation found Kameron Coal was paying Americans far more than it said it would when the jobs were advertised to Canadians.

The company was contesting the penalties in Federal Court, but recently dropped the appeal.

According to court documents, Kameron Coal was paying some U.S. employees more than double the wages initially offered to Canadians.

The federal investigation found that a labour market survey done by Kameron Coal listed at least two jobs at $32 to $35 an hour, but U.S. workers were being paid $77 an hour.

Several American workers were also paid overtime far in excess of the posted rates, and were given cash signing, housing and retention bonuses, as well as paid pensions and health benefits.

Largest fine ever

The company was initially handed a $230,000 administrative penalty and a 10-year ban on using temporary foreign workers.

Late last year, the sanctions were reduced to a $54,000 fine, a one-year ban and being listed on the government’s violators website.

Even at the lower rate, the fine is the largest ever handed out under the temporary foreign worker program.

The case is considered unusual because the rules are typically meant to protect foreign workers from being underpaid.

No one from Kameron Coal has said why the mining firm decided to pay more than it first said the jobs were worth.

Shannon Campbell, vice-president of the Donkin mine, said the company had a strong case but still decided to abandon its appeal. (CBC)

In an email, mine vice-president Shannon Campbell said the company had a strong appeal, but felt it was a distraction that would not be resolved before the ban expires on Dec. 12.

“We want to stay focused on our primary goals of making the mine more productive and ensuring continued safety,” he said.

Campbell said about 80 per cent of the workforce are Canadian and 20 per cent are Americans who help train employees.

The workers are not unionized, but the United Mine Workers of America said the jobs being done by temporary foreign workers could be done by Canadians.

Late last year, Kameron Coal laid off 49 workers — more than one-third of its employees — saying it had issues with productivity and equipment.

The company has been hiring again, and the workforce is back up over 100.


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