Free Labour

Jonathan McLeod

February 15, 2013 | 2 Comments

The Canadian Press is reporting that a Canadian mining company rejected many candidate applicants, including one with 30 years of experience, in favour of hiring 201 people from China. Unions are crying foul, naturally, but other than contravening xenophobic labour law, HD Mining did absolutely nothing wrong.

Other than discriminating against people based on the geographical happenstance of their birth, there is no good argument to maintain the protectionist labour racket that these unions are defending. Just as with goods and services, free trade in labour would serve as a boon for Canadians in general, and needy foreign workers in particular. Boundaries and citizenship are phantoms. They haunt our movements, but when we look really closely, they don’t actually exist. The mining vet of 30 years has no claim on any job, let alone the specific job at HD Mining to which he or she applied. HD Mining, as any industrial concern would do, reviewed the applicants and chose those whom they thought best for the open positions. The logic may escape us. Management may be trying to find people who are the best “fit” – an intangible but significant consideration in the hiring world – not just the ones with the most impressive CV. Resumes are paper-thin, and it is that third dimension – the one provided by the actual person – that can be the most important factor to a successful hire.

Further, the implication is that HD Mining is trying to pull a fast one by ignoring Canadian applicants and Canadian law. This does not pass the smell test. It is not easy to bring in foreign workers. There are multiple bureaucratic hoops through which a company would have to jump. I cannot imagine even the most evil of corporations but themselves through that layer of hell in order to avoid hiring Canadians.

Fear not, though, protectionists and xenophobes, this story has a happy ending:

Last week, the company announced it was sending 16 temporary workers who had already started work on the prospective project back to China, because the firm was concerned about the ongoing litigation and associated costs.

HD Mining also said it had decided not to bring any more workers to Canada until it had “reliable certainty” on the project.

It’s good to know that unions are there to protect the interests of the Little Guys from the cruelty of corporate oppressors.

(H/T: Will Truman.)


2 Responses to “Free Labour”

  1. mike
    February 17th, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

    Again I’ll preface my comment with “I’m probably wrong but…”

    “Other than discriminating against people based on the geographical happenstance of their birth, there is no good argument to maintain the protectionist labour racket that these unions are defending.”

    I’m pretty sure that you can’t not hire somebody if you don’t like the country they are from even if it is Canada. The reality here is that Canadians will do ANY job if they are paid a fair living wage. Would HD mining get quality Canadian employees for the wage they plan to pay offshore workers? Of course not.


    Jonathan McLeod Reply:

    You’re right, in that if someone is already a legal resident of Canada, you can’t use country of birth as a factor in hiring.

    In the context of this story, the union is complaining that people from China are getting jobs. We have a great number of barriers preventing people from other nations from working here – and in those situations, the only criterion for excluding these people from jobs is their nationality.

    You can argue that we’re basing this discrimination not on country of birth but on citizenship or nationality. This distinction makes it no less odious or xenophobic.


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