Migrant Labour Exploitation on the RAV Line

Posted by admin on May 20th, 2009

May Issue of No One Is Illegal Razorwire. Full issue here.

In preparation for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, approximately 20 workers died, with as many as 1,000 injured, working on Olympic venues. Most of these were migrant workers. During the Beijing Olympics, approximately 3 million migrant and low-skill labourers were expelled from the city core. In the lead up to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver migrant workers are being similarly exploited.

During the construction of the Canada Line Skytrain route, there were at least 50 workers from Costa Rica, Peru and Colombia whose pay, after long hours, worked out to be five dollars per hour.

Construction of the Canada Line was carried out by an Italian corporation named Seli Tecnologie. The primary contractor is SNC Lavalin, one of Canada’s largest arms manufacturers. In November 2007, the BC Human Rights Tribunal ruled that 30 foreign workers from Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador working on the Canada Line had been intimidated and coerced by Seli Tecnologie.

In December 2008 a group of migrant workers won a discrimination suit against SELI Canada, SCNP-SELI Joint Venture and SNC Lavalin Constructors (Pacific) Inc. for substandard pay and housing. The Tribunal found that “for two years the respondents’ treatment of the [workers] conveyed to them the message that they were worth less and less worthy than other employees because they were Latin American.”

Evidence included paying Latin American workers $10 less per hour for similar tasks and being crammed into motels while European workers were housed in upscale False Creek condos. The Tribunal found that “so long as they continued to work on the Canada Line project, they were unable to escape the discriminatory treatment that pervaded every aspect of their working and leisure lives.”

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