Sunday, April 22, 2007

Company defends move to import Chinese workers

Last Updated: Thursday, April 13, 2006 | 9:29 AM MT - CBC News

An oil company is defending its plan to use more than 500 workers from China to help build a tank facility at its oilsands project near Fort McMurray.

Labour groups have criticized Canadian Natural Resources Limited for wanting to bring in temporary foreign workers, saying there are enough Canadians to do the work.

Real Doucet, who is in charge of the company's oilsands operations, says it's worked hard to recruit workers in this country and a majority will be Canadian.

"We went into, so far, 12 cities across Canada, where we have done open houses and invited the contractors, showing them what we have on our site here to attract them to come to work in Alberta," says Doucet.

"This is a Canadian project and we want Canadians to have an advantage on this."

But, he says, there's more work than workers.

"In the past, most of the projects were capable of attracting enough Albertans to make it happen," says Doucet.

"It's OK when you have maybe $5 to $10 billion of work a year. We are up to the $20-, $30-billion-a-year of work across Alberta now so Alberta itself cannot supply the demand."

Doucet says his company will likely use more Canadians from outside Alberta than foreigners because of the extra costs of training and travel involved when hiring people from overseas.

But even with the additional costs, he says it is cheaper to use foreign workers only in areas where there is a high demand for a trade, such as welding.

The federal government says it is monitoring wages to make sure they are not negatively affected by the use of foreign workers.