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

Air ambulance called to scene after report of shots fired in Abbotsford

Incident Monday afternoon in the area of Ross and Simpson roads

Chilliwack pauses to remember

Services held special significance, marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

Early morning bagpipe playing at Chilliwack memorial on Nov. 11

Piper Greg McCormick taking part in international Battle’s Over tribute at Piper Richardson statue

VIDEO: Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee dies

Marvel co-creator was well-known for making cameo appearances in superhero movies

Calgary 2026 leader expects close vote in Winter Games plebiscite

Residents to choose in a non-binding vote on Tuesday whether they want city to bid on 2026 Olympics

VIDEO: Newcomer kids see first Canadian snowfall

Children arrived in Canada with their mother and two siblings last week from Eritrea

Feds dropped ball with WWI anniversary tributes: historians

Wrote one historian: ‘Other than the Vimy Ridge celebration … I think they have done a very bad job’

Sides ‘far apart’ in Canada Post talks despite mediation, says union

The lack of a breakthrough means rotating strikes will resume Tuesday

Feds’ appeal of solitary confinement decision in B.C. to be heard

Judge ruled in January that indefinite such confinement is unconstitutional, causes permanent harm

Touching note left on Lower Mainland veteran’s windshield

A veteran is hoping the writers of a note know how much he was touched by their kind words.

BCHLers on NHL Central Scouting players to watch list

The list includes seven current BCHL skaters

B.C. health care payroll tax approved, takes effect Jan. 1

Employers calculating cost, including property taxes increases

Most Read