Foreign sailors paid $2 per hour while Canadian crews remain jobless

Reynaldo Germano, bottom, and Ramil Ramirez, both from the Philippines, take supplies on board the cargo ship Ital Usodimare at port in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday December 23, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

OTTAWA – The Seafarers International Union of Canada is preparing to take the federal government to court over the use of foreign sailors – some of whom are allegedly being paid as little as $2.02 per hour – on internationally-flagged ships in Canadians waters.

The labour group, which represents unlicenced sailors in all of the country’s coastal waters, has been firing warning shots for month over the refusal of shipping agents to hire Canadian crews – something that appears to be a growing practice and one to which the federal government has allegedly has turned a blind eye.

The Canadian Press has learned the union intends to ask the Federal Court in Vancouver on Tuesday for a judicial review of the practice of issuing the foreign sailors temporary work permits.

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The union points to the 60,000 tonne, Greek-owned tanker Almathea, which was just in the Port of Montreal and licenced to be transporting crude oil in Canadian waters until Sept. 13.

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Fourteen employment contracts for the ship’s crew, obtained by The Canadian Press, show hourly wages ranging from as little as $2.13 to $8.80, depending upon the job and before overtime.

Jim Givens, of the seafarers union, says it’s scandalous, meant to improve the corporate bottom line and is taking place while 800 Canadian sailors are unemployed.

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