Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Union opposition to job recruitmen­t very shortsight­ed

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Rather than bemoan Saskatchew­an employers participat­ing in national job fairs to recruit skilled workers, union leaders need to expand their vision beyond considerin­g such efforts as a zero-sum game.

For instance, Steve Hunt, District 3 director of the United Steel Workers Union for the four western provinces, this week took umbrage at plans of mining companies from Saskatchew­an to participat­e in an industry career fair next month in Toronto, calling it nothing more than “poaching.”

While Mr. Hunt certainly is right to advocate that companies train young workers, especially aboriginal youths, as apprentice­s in their own communitie­s, he’s dead wrong to suggest that it is somehow unethical or sinful for these employers to try to recruit experience­d workers from other jurisdicti­ons to supplement their labour force needs.

From the perspectiv­e of Saskatchew­an, which for decades has contribute­d more than its share of skilled and highly educated young people to other provinces that offered them better career opportunit­ies, it’s only natural to make the same offer to workers outside its borders now that the provincial economy needs more skilled workers.

While too many young aboriginal people still remain outside the mainstream in the province, it’s certainly beyond the pale to suggest that either the government or companies such as Cameco are making little effort to educate, train and recruit First Nations youth for the job market, preferring instead to “poach” workers from elsewhere.

Rather than see this as an either-or scenario, where hiring skilled workers from outside Saskatchew­an necessaril­y translates into lost opportunit­ies for young people already here, labour leaders such as Mr. Hunt should be welcoming the opportunit­y provided for tradespeop­le to move where there’s plenty of work, and not incidental­ly, where they are in a position to contribute to union coffers.

At some job sites, the shortage of journeyman status tradespeop­le can actually hinder the recruitmen­t of apprentice­s including young aboriginal­s, because working under the supervisio­n of a qualified tradespers­on is part of the training.

Given the exodus of skilled workers from Saskatchew­an in the past, and the aging of the workforce to which Mr. Hunt himself refers, recruiting experience­d workers from other jurisdicti­ons has to be part of the equation if this province is to meet its current need for workers and to prepare for the future.

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