Christian Labour Association of Canada member Tom MacDonald speaks to reporters at the B.C. legislature, Oct. 30, 2018. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

‘Progressive’ contractors, unions call for share of B.C. public construction

NDP’s building trades rule drives up costs, Claire Trevena told

Carpenter Zig van Akker worked on the Island Highway expansion project in the 1990s, and was forced to join a U.S.-based international union to do so.

Van Akker was later involved in a lawsuit to recover pension payments to that union, but it was the restrictive rules on the B.C. Building Trades-controlled job site that he doesn’t want to go back to.

“Carpenters weren’t allowed to operate a concrete vibrator, even for a moment, because that was labourer work,” van Akker told a news conference at the B.C. legislature.

These “craft lines” of traditional unions are at the core of objections to the B.C. NDP government making major public construction projects a closed shop for the traditional building trades. The Island Highway project is their test case for what they say is a big increase in labour costs.

Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the Building Trades, said the craft rules are a safety issue on construction sites, and compacting concrete isn’t as simple as it may appear.

“I’ve seen inexperienced people get on the end of the vibrator and vibrate the concrete to the point where they create such a hole that they fall in and need to be picked out,” Sigurdson said.

RELATED: Pattullo agreement a template for B.C. projects

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena agreed to meet with the delegation Tuesday to hear their concerns first-hand. But taking questions from B.C. Liberal MLAs on their objections, Trevena showed no signs of turning back from a core NDP policy that takes effect with the Pattullo Bridge replacement in Metro Vancouver.

Trevena cited B.C. Hydro’s Waneta and John Hart Dam reconstruction projects that were contracted under the B.C. Liberal government, using the same project labour agreement with 19 building trades as the NDP is using.

Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, said the construction industry has evolved since the 1970s. Now 85 per cent of construction workers either belong to no union or to unions like the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC). The choice of union and employer is a constitutional right his association is going to court to protect, de Jong said.

CLAC spokesman Ryan Bruce said his union is one of the top three trainers of apprentices in construction, and it makes no sense for B.C. to restrict public construction to the B.C. Building Trades as a way of increasing apprenticeship opportunities.

Sigurdson said the apprenticeship system needs more than apprentices.

“On an annual basis, our local unions in British Columbia put in about $18 million through their collective agreements into the apprenticeship system,” he said. “I don’t know what CLAC does.”

CLAC member Tom MacDonald said he has worked for Ledcor for 19 years, and he doesn’t want to join another union so he can be dispatched from a hiring hall to whatever company has short-term employment for him.

Welder Natalie Bak said her entry into the male-dominated trade happened outside the old-line construction unions, and her younger female relatives see her as a role model.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Realtors hope that their help can make miracles happen for sick kids

Re/Max of Nanaimo donates $86,000 to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

Young Nanaimo dancers to appear on NBC program ‘World of Dance’

Jacksun Fryer, 15, and Deeya Sharma, 12, among those competing for $1 million

Vancouver Island’s 10 worst intersections revealed

Saanich, Victoria, Nanaimo, Duncan and Langford junctions make the list

Nanaimo RCMP share road trip tales from Bear’s cross-Canada adventure

Nanaimo RCMP Bear makes it to Grey Cup and Irish pubs en route to Newfoundland

Jeep bursts into flames on highway near Nanoose Bay

Emergency crews responded to blaze at approximately 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

B.C. BUDGET: Indigenous communities promised billions from gambling

Extended family caregiver pay up 75 per cent to keep kids with relatives

B.C. BUDGET: New benefit increases family tax credits up to 96 per cent

BC Child Opportunity Benefit part of province’s efforts to reduce child poverty

B.C. BUDGET: Carbon tax boosts low-income credits, electric vehicle subsidies

Homeowners can get up to $14,000 for heating, insulation upgrades

B.C. man survives heart attack thanks to Facebook

A Princeton man suffered a heart attack while at an isolated property with no cell service

B.C. man sues Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party over trademark

Satinder Dhillon filed application for trademark same day Maxime Bernier announced the new party

New trial ordered over banning whales, dolphins at Vancouver aquarium

Park board’s appeal reverses previous decision that found it had no right to implement a ban

Most Read