A new master union agreement for public construction could add as much as $100 million to the cost of replacing the Pattullo Bridge, according to B.C. transportation ministry estimates. (Black Press files)

B.C. VIEWS: Big unions living large in public construction-land

The boys like their steak, bosses like a beefy slush fund

A reader named “Jim” didn’t take kindly to my column last week on the B.C. NDP government’s sudden move back to the 1970s-style international union monopoly on public construction.

“I’ll bet the only pipe you ever laid was a hash pipe,” wrote Jim, in reference to my time in non-union construction in the 1980s.

In a series of terse emails, Jim talked tough, but not tough enough to share his last name. “Maybe if you did a better job, you too could have been a union worker, but I doubt it,” he advised me. “We can usually spot a slacker scab pretty quickly.”

In his earthy way, Jim captures the assumptions that are now B.C. government policy. Non-union, or worse, what they call “rat union” employees are poorly trained, inefficient and lazy.

“Brothers and sisters,” as Premier John Horgan addressed the assembled members of his anointed 19 international unions when announcing the monopoly, are so superior they can complete a big road or bridge job faster and cheaper despite lavish benefits and higher wages.

Given that 85 per cent of construction work in B.C. is now non-union, that’s a lot of lazy scabs. Fortunately, the new system allows international unions to pick the workers they deem acceptable to the “brotherhood” and force them to join.

The NDP government quietly released its “community benefits agreement” for this deal, which takes effect with the Pattullo Bridge replacement and then moves to a series of projects to widen the Trans-Canada Highway east of Kamloops. At more than 300 pages, it is an old-school union choke-hold with perks and conditions that go on and on.

Non-union companies are free to bid, as long as they pay wages and benefits set by the U.S.-based “qualified affiliated unions.” They can even choose some of their employees, although a quota for each trade will be imposed. Those lucky workers will not only have to pay union dues, but also pay into union-controlled pension fund, “industry rehabilitation fund,” and skill improvement fund. The largest fund deduction, 25 cents per worker hour, is funnelled into a “council administration” slush fund to finance the newly created union council.

The government also set up a new Crown corporation to administer this deal, called B.C. Infrastructure Benefits Inc., with its own CEO and staff. There’s a lot to administer, as a peek into the dusty list of perks indicates.

Take the menu requirements for work camps, like the ones that will be needed for the Trans Canada Highway jobs. Here is a sample of what’s required for lunch and dinner:

“Salad table will be refrigerated or ice provided. Minimum requirements … an assortment of salads, coleslaw, green salad (tossed), potato salads and two other prepared salads (Caesar, Greek, pasta, bean salad, protein etc.)

“Beef steaks must be served once per week, between Monday and Thursday. Roast beef once per week. There will be no duplication of first line choice [meats] in a five-day period other than beef and beef steak.” And every meal must be all-you-can-eat.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena stresses the ambitious quota for 25 per cent apprentices. We’ll see what that does to efficiency on taxpayer-funded projects.

Somehow this will all translate into a maximum seven per cent increase in the cost of public construction, according to Trevena’s minions. So around $100 million extra to replace the old four-lane Pattullo Bridge with a new four-lane bridge.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

City of Chilliwack applies for flood mitigation planning money

Fraser River frontage in Chilliwack would be studied with an eye to flood prevention

Chilliwack poultry producer’s $130,000 fight with the CFIA earns him a red-tape award

Canadian Federation of Independent Business Paperweight Awards ‘honour’ government over-regulation

Worshipping together: three United churches in Chilliwack amalgamate

Chilliwack United, Rosedale United and Mt. Shannon United are now known as Cheam View United Church

No fines issued in Chilliwack under new winter tire rules

Wondering if there was any cause for enforcement of the new winter tire rules? Us too

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in downtown Smithers

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

Here’s what Canada is doing to stop the coronavirus from getting in

Health officials are monitoring multiple possible cases in Canada

RCMP investigating sexual allegation against Lower Mainland police officer

Delta officer suspended while the alleged off-duty incident involving a co-worker is investigated

VIDEO: Rare ‘ice circle’ spotted on Kamloops river

An ice circle or ice pan, has formed in the chilly waters just east of the Yellowhead Bridge

Investigators in wildfire-torn Australia head to site of B.C. airtanker crash

The B.C. government sends condolences to Port Alberni-owned Coulson Aviation

VIDEO: Person in wheelchair narrowly avoids collision with car in Kelowna

There were no injuries in the scary looking near-accident last week in Rutland

B.C. still struggling to control non-resident medical care fraud

Unpaid bills, out-of-province claimants a costly legacy of MSP

Father to B.C.’s first MLB hall-of-famer is one proud dad

Larry Walker Sr. talks baseball background and son’s base running gaffe

Most Read