02/06/2014 08:21 EST | Updated 04/08/2014 05:59 EDT

Oilsands jobs being taken by temp foreign workers, union says

The federal government says it is investigating claims that dozens of Canadian oilsands workers in Alberta were laid off and replaced with temporary foreign workers.

More than 60 ironworkers say they were let go from their jobs at the Kearl Mine, north of Fort McMurray, last week.

Vic Nilson, who worked at the plant since June, said he and his colleague were told to leave last week with no word as to why.

“Our jobs have been given away,” Nilson said. “We trade our lives to be up here, 14 on [and] seven days off. It was a kick in the backside.”

Nilson and his coworkers were employed by Pacer Promec Energy Corporation, a contractor for the mining site.

Harry Tostowaryk, with the Ironworkers union, says 40 temporary foreign workers from Croatia have been brought in to fill those jobs.

“I was just astonished by it, it is morally wrong,” Tostowaryk said.

Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan says the Croatian workers are making half the salary of the Canadian workers.

An official from Pace Promec said the company does not have temporary foreign workers on staff right now, but documents show that in the fall of 2013 the company was trying to bring in workers from Croatia.

Pacer Corporation, an associated company, responded to CBC News saying that all its employees are Canadian, but following the announcement that the federal government would be looking into allegations made by the Ironworkers, the company changed it official statement to “no comment.”