B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains takes questions about his decision to keep secret-ballot votes for union certification, demanded by the B.C. Green Party, B.C. legislature, Nov. 20, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains takes questions about his decision to keep secret-ballot votes for union certification, demanded by the B.C. Green Party, B.C. legislature, Nov. 20, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Trade union expansion a key goal for B.C. NDP in 2021

Union-only deals may extend to Massey crossing, others

Before the surprise 2020 election, B.C. Premier John Horgan made a point of saying his government’s union-only public construction mandate had been applied only to three large infrastructure projects.

The first project under the new “community benefits agreement,” widening a section of the Trans-Canada Highway near Revelstoke, saw the cost jump 35 per cent. A section of the widening east of Kamloops was then scaled back by half, with the transportation ministry in both cases citing a “hot market” for construction as part of the pressure on costs.

Then-minister Claire Trevena’s estimate for the second designated project, the Pattullo bridge replacement, was pushed up seven per cent by the deal forcing employees to join one of 19 mostly U.S.-based unions, and imposing their rigid “craft lines” on work crews.

The third project is the Broadway subway extension in Vancouver, a tunnel project open to a few specialized international companies. It was awarded last fall to Spanish infrastructure company Acciona in partnership with Ghella of Italy. Horgan says the province is about to release a business case for the long-awaited Massey tunnel replacement, which would likely be the next project to use the new rules.

RELATED: Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada widening project

RELATED: B.C. highway widening reduced, costs still up $61M

The B.C. NDP’s master union agreement runs to 336 pages, with a new B.C. Crown corporation set up to control payroll and union dues, diverting an additional 25 cents per person-hour worked to a new union council and another seven cents to building trade union funds for health and safety. Horgan’s mandate letter to new Transportation Minister Rob Fleming instructs him to continue to apply it “where appropriate,” and to “streamline consultation, tendering and construction of infrastructure projects.”

Mandate letters to Labour Minister Harry Bains and Advanced Education Minister Ann Kang instruct them to “restore the compulsory trades system to improve safety and give more workers a path to apprenticeship completion.” This was a 2017 recommendation from the B.C. Federation of Labour, along with moving to a $15 minimum wage, which B.C. is due to surpass with $15.20 per hour in June of 2021.

In a year-end interview with Black Press, Horgan said the public supports his labour agenda.

“They want to know when we’re spending public dollars that we’re training the next generation of workers,” Horgan said. “We have an aging demographic. We want to encourage people to get into the trades. One way to do that is to give them a clear path to apprenticeships to red seals, and whether you’re a union company or a non-union company, you need to have skilled workers, and community benefit agreements allow us to do that.”

RELATED: B.C. keeps secret ballot for union certifications

Another likely shift in 2021 is the elimination of secret-ballot votes for union certification. Bains was poised to impose that in 2019, going against the recommendation of his own expert panel, but withdrew the amendment to the B.C. Labour Relations Code after then-B.C. Greens leader Andrew Weaver said his party would vote against it and defeat it in the minority legislature.

Horgan’s mandate letter to Bains instructs him only to “ensure every worker has the right to join a union and bargain for fair working conditions.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politicsBest of 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ottawa serial killer Camille Joseph Cleroux died of natural causes at Abbotsford’s Pacific Institution on Sunday.
Serial killer housed at Abbotsford’s Pacific Institution dies of natural causes

Camille Joseph Cleroux announced dead on Sunday, known as notorious Ottawa serial killer

A child joins the Uke ‘n Play kickoff event at the Chilliwack Library on Oct. 1, 2016. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Events return, in virtual form, at Fraser Valley Regional Library

People can take part in ukulele jam, bullet journaling, reading groups and more

This urn was found Jan. 4 at a Yale Road bus stop and has now been returned to its owner. (RCMP photo)
RCMP find custodian of urn that was left at Chilliwack bus stop

Police say the urn contained the remains of a family’s cat

Garry Blanchard of Hope won $77,000 correctly guessing the outcomes of all 13 games of NFL week 17. (Photo/BCLC)
Hope resident rakes in $77,000 in NFL Week 17 bet

Garry Blanchard won the record-breaking prize correctly guessing every outcome that week

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Chilliwack ER doc runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

People wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 walk past a window display at a store in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, December 13, 2020. The association representing businesses across Metro Vancouver says the costs of COVID-19 continue to mount for its members.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Greater Vancouver business organization says members face uncertain outlook in 2021

Many Greater Vancouver businesses are barely treading water as they enter 2021

A handgun seized by Surrey RCMP. (Photo: Police handout)
Crime Stoppers received 500+ tips about Metro Vancouver guns, gang activity in 2020: report

Metro Vancouver organization ‘urging local residents to keep providing anonymous tips’

Most Read