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

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.

BC legislature

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

Just Posted

The Quesnel RCMP Detachment is one of seven northern police buildings which can now connect directly to Prince George for daily bail hearings. (Observer File Photo)
Bail hearings going virtual in B.C.’s north

A court pilot project will see virtual courtroom cameras set up in seven RCMP detatchments

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The fence option chosen for the 461 Quatsino Boulevard development is the red lines that border the site plan. The fence will be roughly six feet high with the exception of the fence bordering Cranberry Street which will be eight feet high. (Boni Maddison Architects photo)
Fence to be erected between housing project and Kitimat homeowners

Residents of the Cranberry Street area are finally getting the fence they want

Rising demand for police to perform well-being checks and field calls for people struggling with domestic violence cases is driving the city to formulate a ‘situation table’ to connect vulnerable people with the services they need. (News Bulletin file photo)
Situation Table comes to Kitimat to support vulnerable people

Situation Tables identify and help vulnerable people in need.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
‘In grief for our dying world’: B.C. climate activists embark on 4-day protest

Demonstrators will walk through Vancouver for the first two days before boarding a ferry Sunday morning

Most Read