Hiring temporary foreign workers from South Korea and Japan to install equipment at the new EV battery plant in Windsor, Ont. will cost Canadian skilled labourers around $300 million in lost wages and contractor fees, according to Canada’s Building Trades Union. 

Union executive director Sean Strickland said that local contractors in Windsor have been submitting quotes for installing equipment at the battery plant since August but have had no response from NextStar, the company in charge of running the factory. 

News of NextStar hiring temporary foreign workers only thickens the plot of the controversial Stellantis and LG Solutions deal, which is being subsidized with taxpayer money to the tune of $15 billion.

Nextstar disclosed that they would be hiring 900 temporary foreign workers to install the equipment at the plant last week and that they will leave Canada once the work is finished. 

The 900 foreign workers who will come from South Korea and Japan, would work alongside an additional 700 Canadians to install 300 machines.

Once the factory becomes fully operational, there would also be “Koreans at the battery plant working alongside the 2,500 local workers,” said Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk in an interview with the Globe and Mail. Kusmierczyk is also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Employment Minister.

Around 1,600 South Koreans are expected to work at the EV battery plant, according to the Windsor Police Service. 

However, the exact number can’t be announced yet, says Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne.

“I mean you can’t tell a number. You’d have to talk to the people who know these things. You have to look at, you know, what’s the machinery? Where’s the equipment coming from?” Champagne told reporters in Parliament. “Anyone who’s guessing numbers, they don’t know what they’re talking about. You have to talk to the engineers on the ground, to the people. … you know, there is a number of things. It’s very detailed.”

Strickland estimates that the jobs being given to temporary foreign workers will amount to an estimated 2.8 million hours of work and $300 million in lost wages and contractor fees. 

An estimate that Strickland said is conservative at best, as it doesn’t factor in potential overtime.

The Conservatives have been putting pressure on the Trudeau government to release the details of their contract with NextStar to ensure that Canadians will be hired to work at the plant. 

Kusmierczyk argued that there was nothing abnormal about bringing in foreign workers to install equipment at plants and that it was commonplace in the auto industry. 

The Conservatives rebuked that since Canadians are the ones who are subsidizing the plant, they have a right to know the details of the contract. 

If the government fails to release the contract to the public, the Conservatives have argued that the committee should be able to ask the House of Commons to make an order to force them to reveal the contract to MPs. 

Thus far, the Liberals have opposed their request on the basis that the contract contains material that is commercially sensitive and could discourage companies from investing in Canada in the future. 

Last week, MP’s serving on the Commons industry committee decided to review the contract behind closed doors but agreed not to make its details public. 

Conservative industry critic Rick Perkins said that Canadian taxpayers have a right to see the fine print of the contract themselves as they are paying out billions in subsidies for it.

Conservative MP Andrew Scheer said the Canadians are being treated like ‘second class shareholders,’ while speaking before the Committee on Monday.