B.C. building groups ask court to axe public construction deal

Agreement had allowed only 19 unions to bid on provincial megaprojects

Several unions and companies have joined a trade group petition asking the B.C. Supreme Court to strike down a building trades union-only hiring model for taxpayer-funded construction projects.

In a petition filed Monday, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association said that the agreement gives trades unions an unfair monopoly “for no legitimate or valid purpose” over public construction projects.

The 336-page agreement released in July includes strict provisions for local hiring, an average of 25 per cent apprentices on each job, hiring of Indigenous peoples and annual two per cent raises on specified wages by trade. It bars all but unions affiliated with the B.C. Building Trades Council from bidding on public construction projects.

According to the association, 80-85 per cent of B.C. trades workers do not belong to one of those unions.

However, in an email to Black Press media, the province noted that although workers must join one of the approved unions when hired on, they are not required to be in one before bidding, nor remain in the union upon the project’s completion.

The government has also set up a new Crown corporation called B.C. Infrastructure Benefits Inc. to manage large road, bridge and other government projects.

READ MORE: B.C. government releases public construction terms

READ MORE: Non-union builders protest exclusion from B.C. public projects

Earlier this summer, Premier John Horgan announced that the replacement Pattullo Bridge would be the first project built under the new framework, with the Trans Canada Highway 1 Kamloops to Alberta widening to follow.

But in its petition, the association argues that “there is no necessary or logical connection” between achieving the targets set out in the agreement and “forcing employees to join particular unions favoured by the government.”

It argues the contractors and non-building trades unions barred from bidding on public projects have “extensive experience” with training workers and increasing the participation of “First Nations and other underrepresented groups” in the field, and that there is “no difference” in the wages paid.

“The choice of which union to join, if any, should be made by the workers through a secret ballot, and should not be imposed by government,” said ICBA president Chris Gardner.

“No matter how a construction company organizes its workforce, in this province every construction company should have the right to bid and win work funded by taxpayers.”

But the B.C. Building Trades Council called the move “a political statement,” saying that the similar business groups did not challenge union-only membership requirements under previous governments.

“This is the same practice that has been going on for decades in British Columbia under Project Labour Agreements between the Allied Hydro Council and, for example, Columbia Hydro Constructors,” the council said in an email.

“These agreements, enacted under previous Liberal and Social Credit governments, also require membership in an appropriate union within 30 days of being hired.”

The province has yet to file a response in court.

More to come.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

B.C. reservists gather for military communications training in Chilliwack

Canadian Army’s communication skills are used in battle as well as domestic emergencies

VIDEO: ‘Heroes’ rescue teenager trapped in vehicle in water-filled ditch in Chilliwack

Two men sprang into action, holding 17-year-old’s head out of water as they pried open door

Sarah Wark rallies to beat Prince Edward Island at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Wark wasn’t at the top of her game, but her team did enough to improve to 6-3 overall.

GW Graham junior boys play underdog role at basketball provincials

One of two at-large seeds in the 32 team field, the Grizzlies face a tough opponent out of the gate.

Unfinished business for GW Graham basketball Grizzlies at AA provincials

GWG’s senior girls squad advanced to the final before losing in 2018 and look to win it all in 2019.

Sell regulated heroin to curb B.C.’s overdose problem: report

B.C. Centre on Substance Use points to organized crime and money-laundering as contributing factors

B.C. legislature moving suspended staff controversy to outside review

Whale watching, Seattle Mariners trips billed as emergency preparedness, Speaker Darryl Plecas says

Two boys saved after falling through ice in Coquitlam

RCMP say a Good Samaritan pulled the kids to safety

More people signing up for compulsory vaccines

Maple Ridge mom says public tired of hearing about measles

UPDATE: Man charged in stabbing of woman, off-duty cop outside B.C. elementary school

Manoj George, 49, is facing two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of assault with a weapon after the incident on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

Researchers from University of Bristol look into why zebras have stripes

Poll: More voters believe Canada doing worse under Trudeau government

22 per cent believed the country is doing better and 27 per cent said things are the same

HBC shuttering Home Outfitters across Canada

North America’s oldest retailer is revamping its various stores to improve profitability

BC SPCA investigates Okanagan woman with prior animal abuse convictions

BC SPCA is investigating a property near Vernon

Most Read