–Provincial news release (benefits and criticism follow)
A new, landmark agreement for key public-sector infrastructure projects in B.C. will deliver good-paying jobs, better training and apprenticeships, and more trades opportunities for Indigenous peoples, women and youth around the province.
“British Columbians rightfully expect B.C. projects to benefit B.C. workers, families and communities. Our new Community Benefits Agreement will help deliver those benefits,” said Premier John Horgan.
“With this agreement, we’re not just investing in roads, bridges and other infrastructure, we’re investing in good jobs and new opportunities for people who live in B.C. And with our focus on expanding apprenticeships for young British Columbians, we’re helping build B.C.’s next generation of construction workers.”
Highlights of the agreement include:
- A targeted approach to maximizing apprenticeship opportunities on major public-infrastructure projects.
- Focus on priority hiring and training of Indigenous peoples, and women.
- Co-ordinated access to existing training programs, while identifying and addressing skills gaps.
- Priority hiring for qualified individuals who live within close proximity of the projects.
- Hiring flexibility for contractors, who can request named hires.
- Wage alignment to prevailing industry rates to promote good wages for all employees.
The first projects to be delivered under the new community benefits framework are the new Pattullo Bridge, and the four-laning projects on the Trans-Canada Highway between Kamloops and Alberta. The request for qualifications (RFQ) for the Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project has been released.
“British Columbians deserve the opportunity to work on major government projects being built in and near their communities,” said Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “This Community Benefits Agreement will put local people first in line for good jobs building the roads, bridges and other infrastructure we need.”
Under government’s new Community Benefits Agreement, a diverse and qualified workforce will be supplied for select major public infrastructure projects through a newly created Crown corporation, BC Infrastructure Benefits Inc. (BCIB). BCIB will hire the project’s construction workers, and will work with unions and contractors to dispatch labour, as well as manage payroll and benefits.
“We continue to work with Indigenous groups and women in trades to expand apprenticeship and employment opportunities,” said Tom Sigurdson, executive director, BC Building Trades. “Under a Community Benefits Agreement, these initiatives will translate directly into apprenticeship completions, which, in turn, will allow B.C. residents to support their families, to invest in their communities, and to build the B.C. economy.”
Signatories to the Community Benefits Agreement are BCIB, and the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council (AIRCC), which represents many of B.C.’s building trades. Contractors representing B.C.’s construction industry played an important advisory role as the agreement was developed.
Key benefits of labour agreement
The Community Benefits Agreement allows government to make sure that local people and communities get long-lasting benefits from public investments into major infrastructure projects, while maximizing the number of contractors that can bid on major infrastructure projects.
Key benefits of the negotiated labour agreement include:
- Increased apprenticeships in the skilled trades is essential to the development of British Columbia’s workforce.
- Targets will be aligned with the Government Apprenticeship Policy to maximize work-based training and opportunities to grow the skilled workforce.
- The development of construction skills for persons other than the Red Seal apprentices is essential to the development of British Columbia’s workforce.
- Wherever possible, existing government training programs and services will be leveraged. Training needs will be assessed for each project, and a process will be established to co-ordinate the development of new training where gaps exist, in collaboration with training partners and building trades councils, as required.
Indigenous and under-represented groups:
- This agreement provides incremental and prioritized opportunities for the participation of Indigenous peoples and other traditionally under-represented groups on government infrastructure projects, in a safe environment that is free from discrimination and harassment.
- Government has an existing consultation and accommodation process to address impacted Indigenous groups on projects. This process will continue and not be affected by the implementation of a labour agreement.
- In addition, Indigenous peoples, women, and other traditionally under-represented groups will now have priority access to employment and training opportunities.
Local people and businesses:
- When local workers have greater access to work opportunities in their communities, local people can, in turn, build, invest and stay in their communities.
- Wages have been negotiated to align with industry wages, based on prevailing construction rates.
- This provides good-paying jobs to workers on these projects, and provides cost certainty to government.
Horgan Makes Sweetheart Deal with Union Donors
Independent Contractors and Businesses Association
In a cynical effort to pay back his Building Trades union supporters and donors, Premier John Horgan is reviving an obsolete, expensive, highly bureaucratic way of building the Pattullo Bridge and other vital infrastructure, said the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) today.
“All anyone wants is a fair shot at work, but John Horgan has tilted the playing field to favour the 15% of the workforce represented by the Building Trades unions that have given his NDP Government millions of dollars in political donations and support,” said Chris Gardner, president of ICBA. “Today’s announcement was long on cost for taxpayers but short on details from government. Procurement should be open, fair and transparent – not a payoff for political favours.”
Horgan’s model is built on the 1990s Vancouver Island Highway project, which saw workers forced to join unions, get hired through union hiring halls and pay union dues. This drove up labour costs by 40%, according to a study done for the Vancouver Board of Trade at the time.
“This is the failed Island Highway model all over again – but even worse, as Horgan fails to understand that 85% of the industry is not affiliated with his union supporters,” said Gardner. “With nearly $30 billion in government construction projects planned over the next three years, project delays and overpaying by creating a union monopoly will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.”
The B.C. Government has delayed the Pattullo Bridge project for almost a year, simply to make this deal with the Building Trades unions. “It’s disappointing to see such a vital project used as a political football by the NDP,” said Gardner. “The new Pattullo would already be under way if it wasn’t about paying back political favours.”
ICBA is the single largest sponsor of trades apprentices in British Columbia, with more than 1,200 men and women going through the certification process.
“Fair, transparent and open bidding should be a cornerstone value in a democracy like B.C. Whether you are union or open shop, you should have a fair shot at work put out by government,” said Gardner. “Unfortunately, this changed today, and ICBA is committed to fighting tooth and nail to ensure that fairness and transparency prevail when government projects are tendered.”
For a backgrounder outlining ICBA concerns about Horgan’s project labour agreements, click here.