MPs, Unions Voice Concern About Foreign Workers in Gov't-Subsidized EV Battery Plant

Around 1,600 South Korean workers are expected to help set up Canada's first EV battery manufacturing plant in Windsor, Ont.
MPs, Unions Voice Concern About Foreign Workers in Gov't-Subsidized EV Battery Plant
An employee walks past the logo of LG Energy Solution at its office building in Seoul, South Korea, November 23, 2021. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)
Jennifer Cowan
The arrival of workers from South Korea to help set up Canada’s first electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing plant in Windsor, Ont., has some MPs and unions concerned that $15 billion in taxpayer subsidies could be used to hire foreign employees.
Construction on the NextStar Energy electric vehicle battery plant, a collaboration between Stellantis and LG Energy Solutions, was renewed in earnest this summer after receiving $15 billion in funding from the federal and provincial governments in a bid to “anchor our auto manufacturing sector and keep good jobs in Canada,” according to a government release.
At the time, the EV battery factory was touted to create 2,500 jobs in the Windsor area. 
A recent social media post from Windsor Police, however, indicated that 1,600 workers were being brought in by NextStar Energy to work at the plant. The police force posted photos of a meeting with the South Korean Ambassador Lim Woong Son to discuss the “South Korean workforce coming to our community.”
“With the new LGEnergy Solutions battery plant being built, we expect approximately 1,600 South Koreans traveling to work and live in our community in 2024,” the force said in its post.
“We… look forward to the South Korean workforce coming to our community.” 
Tory MP Rick Perkins, who serves as his party's industry critic, has written to the House of Commons industry and technology committee to “address the deeply disturbing revelations” that foreign workers are being hired at the plant.
“Fifteen billion of taxpayer dollars are on the line. We were promised local jobs, not temp hires,” Mr. Perkins said in a Nov. 19 social media post, adding that the meeting was a bid to “fight for Canadian jobs.”
The letter, which was also signed by four Conservative MPs and NDP Windsor-West MP Brian Masse, said the initial job postings by NextStar received a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), indicating the positions require the use of temporary foreign workers.
“This means the Liberal government would have received formal documentation that the corporate recipients of $15 billion in taxpayer money were looking to use temporary foreign workers instead of local labor,” the letter stated.

Union Concerns

NextStar Energy chief executive Danies Lee said in a statement to the Canadian Press that the installation of equipment at the battery plant requires temporary foreign staff with specialized expertise.
Mr. Lee said the firm is committed to hiring Canadians to fill more than 2,500 full-time jobs at the plant. Up to 2,300 additional local tradespeople will also be hired to help with construction and installation, he said.
Korean packaging firm Jeil, which has a long-term partnership with LG, has set up a corporation in Canada to perform installation and assembly for the EV battery plant. Jeil is advertising for an operations manager of administrative services and has been granted an LMIA to fill the role with a foreign worker if no qualified Canadians are available. 
Jeil's human resources manager, Theresa Lee, told The Globe and Mail that Korean workers with experience in which tools and equipment to use, can train Canadian employees. 
“Our workers are all from South Korea and they are willing to train and share their knowledge to the locals by working side by side,” she said. 
Unions are worried the federal government will grant additional LMIAs that permit foreign workers to be hired for construction jobs expected to go to Canadian workers.
“Canada’s Building Trades Unions has grave concerns if there are temporary foreign workers executing the work when we have job-ready Canadian construction workers available in the Windsor area,” CBTU executive director Sean Strickland told The Globe and Mail.

The Ironworkers Local 700 union has also raised concerns, saying its workers are more than able to "supply the labour demand required to build the NextStar Energy Project.”

A spokesperson for Economic Development Minister Victor Fedeli said the province is calling on Ottawa to make sure local workers are hired at the Windsor plant.
“Ontario has one of the most skilled workforces in the world and thousands of talented men and women who are more than capable of performing these jobs,” spokesperson Vanessa De Matteis said in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times.
“We urge the federal government to ensure that the necessary checks and balances, which include labour market impact assessments, are being utilized before approving applications for international workers.”
Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is also calling on Ottawa to make a commitment that no public funding will go to foreign workers and announced on Nov. 20 that he would push for an inquiry into the matter.

The Epoch Times reached out to NextStar Energy for comment but didn't immediately hear back.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.