Premier John Horgan announces a $1.8 million pilot project to get more women into skilled trades at the B.C. legislature, March 8, 2018. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

Premier John Horgan vows union public construction (with video)

Pattullo bridge replacement marks return to ‘project labour agreements’

Premier John Horgan says union-only deals for major construction projects are the way of the future, and the replacement of the 80-year-old Pattullo bridge linking Surrey and New Westminster is the “perfect template” for B.C.

Horgan made the comments Thursday at a B.C. legislature ceremony to announce a pilot project to get more women into skilled construction trades.

“I believe that the Pattullo bridge, $1.37 billion, can and will be done with a project labour agreement, a community benefits arrangement, and we’re working on that right now with our partners and making sure that we get an agreement in place that meets the test for British Columbians,” Horgan said.

A typical project labour agreement establishes a work site as union-only, in exchange for a commitment not to go on strike. Horgan said that’s the model for future major public construction, including commitments by unions to meet a quota of apprentices on each job.

“There are going to be different situations as we go along,” Horgan said. “Hospitals are not bridges. Transit lines are not bridges. So we’re going to adapt agreements as we’re negotiating with contractors, as we’re putting out requests for proposals.”

RELATED: Ironworkers endorse Christy Clark, rap B.C. Fed

The B.C. Liberal government steered the province to open-shop construction, most recently for the early stages of the Site C dam project. Horgan said he has instructed B.C. Hydro to go back to project labour agreements in the future.

“That worked for W.A.C. Bennett, it worked for Bill Bennett and I believe it will work for me,” Horgan said. “I look back now on the projects that were built without community benefits agreements by the previous government, and I’m reminded that the Port Mann bridge was over budget. The Northwest transmission line was wildly over budget. The Vancouver convention centre, the roof at B.C. Place, all over budget.”

The Island Highway expansion in the NDP-led 1990s was a union-only job that was criticized for cost escalation and scaling down to drop interchanges in favour of traffic lights. The Mackenzie interchange north of Victoria is under construction today, after many years of daily traffic slowdowns known as the “Colwood crawl.”

Chris Gardner, president of the non-union Independent Contractors and Business Association, cites a 1994 Vancouver Board of Trade report that estimated the project labour agreement increased Island Highway costs by 38 per cent.

“Horgan’s vision is to use sweetheart deals to tilt the playing field in favour of 20 per cent of the construction workforce,” Gardner said in a recent commentary.

Just Posted

Nanaimo Astronomy Society to host Vancouver Island’s first AstroFest

AstroFest will showcase Island’s amateur and professional astronomical groups and activities

Nanaimo Sport Achievement Awards announce winners

VIU women’s volleyball is Team of the Year, Presidents Cup lacrosse is Sports Story of the Year

Vehicle smashes through front of furniture store in Nanaimo

No injuries reported in Friday afternoon incident on Mostar Road

Island Health dealing with ‘surge’ of measles vaccination requests in Nanaimo

No measles cases on Vancouver Island says Island Health

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

Beefs & Bouquets, Feb. 21

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail bulletinboard@nanaimobulletin.com

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

Junior Team Canada brings home gold to B.C., again

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

People gather for funeral of seven children killed in fast-moving Halifax fire

Traditional portion of the service will be followed by words from community members

B.C. weavers to help Alaska Native project honouring survivors of violence

Dozens of Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers from all over North America will be weaving 5-inch-by-5-inch squares

B.C. skip Sarah Wark and team eliminated at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Nontheless pretty impressive stuff from the 24th-ranked team in the country

Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit explained

It’s A high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops the global problem

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Most Read