CLAC representative Ryan Bruce (left) introduces B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and Vancouver Regional Construction Association president Fiona Famulak to speak at rally with workers at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 19, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Bids down, costs up on Highway 1, B.C. independent contractors say

Rally protests NDP government’s union-only public construction

Independent contractors and union members descended on the B.C. legislature for a second time Tuesday, warning that the NDP government’s union construction rules are chasing away bidders and pushing up costs for taxpayers.

The B.C. Liberal opposition hosted members of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada and its main union, Langley-based Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) to the rally. They say they are excluded by the B.C. government’s rules requiring workers on large public construction to join one of 19 mostly U.S.-based construction unions, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Labourers International Union and United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.

The new rules apply to the Pattullo Bridge replacement between Surrey and New Westminster, the pending Broadway subway line in Vancouver, and sections of Highway 1 widening between Kamloops and the Alberta border that are now in preparation or bidding stages.

RELATED: Cost jumps 35% for first Highway 1 widening job

RELATED: B.C. Building Trades competitive, director says

B.C. VIEWS: Most construction apprentices non-union now

The first Highway 1 section near Revelstoke went 35 per cent over budget, which was attributed to rising material costs and a skilled labour shortage. The Illecillewaet four-laning project was one of a series of projects to widen the Kicking Horse Pass section of the highway from Revelstoke to Golden, a project budgeted at more than $600 million.

One of the most difficult mountain road stretches in the country, the Kicking Horse project is one-third funded by Ottawa and the rest by B.C. The B.C. government has acknowledged that the union restrictions will add $35 million to the Kicking Horse project.

Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, said the union hiring rules effectively break up experienced work crews, resulting in only four bidders on the Kicking Horse work.

“A project of this scope would ordinarily attract 15 to 20 bidders,” de Jong said.

In the legislature before the rally, Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo released a “debriefing” note from William Hoban of Enviro-Ex Contracting, who dropped out of the bidding for the Illecillewaet project this spring. Hoban was harshly critical of the “Community Benefits Agreement” (CBA) terms and their effect on bidding for a project that prevented them from bringing their experienced crews as a whole.

“The majority of the contractors that we work with and are specialized in this scope are smaller companies with non-union workforces,” Hoban wrote in response to questions from the transportation ministry on his decision to drop out. “All of them refused to bid the project.”

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the CBA is designed to increase the number and completion of apprenticeships on public construction projects, with an emphasis on women and Indigenous people receiving training. The Independent Contractors and Business Association released documents from the province’s own Industry Training Authority in May, showing the vast majority of construction apprentices are now sponsored by non-union companies.

“Like in many areas, if it’s a unionized job site, people are expected to join the union, as they were when they were working on the Waneta Dam, when they were working at John Hart [dam], when they were working at many of the projects, both under the B.C. Liberals and under the Socreds,” Trevena told the legislature.

The Site C dam is the first major B.C. Hydro project to proceed as an open-shop, a matter of bitter dispute between the former B.C. Liberal government and the B.C. and Yukon Building Trades Council, whose members now exclusively represent workers on major construction under the NDP government.


@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

VIDEO: Vernon man says stranger breaks in while family slept

Resident shares doorbell cam footage in hopes to ID suspect who raided his home and fridge

Two-car collision in busy Vernon intersection

Firefighters, RCMP and ambulance are on scene

VIDEO: Protesters set up beside Vernon highway

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP responds to countrywide blockades

Suspects wanted in attempted robbery of Vernon senior

Police are searching for man behind attempted assault last month

Mental health disorders, suicide on the rise among Okanagan students

The survey was conducted by the McCreary Centre Society in 2018

UPDATE: Protesters say they will maintain blockade near Chase “as long as it takes”

Signs at protest site say in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

EDITORIAL: Thoughtless posts to Facebook cause real harm and stress

At the risk of resembling a broken record, it needs to be… Continue reading

COLUMN: Not an expert on First Nations government structures? Then maybe you should calm down

Consider your knowledge about First Nations governance structures before getting really, really mad

Trans-Canada Highway closed between Salmon Arm and Sicamous

Drive BC reports the closure is the result of a vehicle incident.

Meet the Wet’suwet’en who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Supporters of the pipeline are upset only one side is being heard nationwide

One dead in multi-vehicle collision involving logging truck on northern B.C. highway

DriveBC says highway expected to remain closed until 8 p.m.

B.C. teacher gets 15-year ban after lying about having sex with just-graduated student

Teacher had been dishonest with the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

VIDEO: Kelowna welcomes first LQBTQ+ cocktail lounge

Friends of Dorothy lounge is located in downtown Kelowna

Most Read