Sketch of new Pattullo Bridge, which is to be build upstream of the existing 80-year-old span. (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)

Sketch of new Pattullo Bridge, which is to be build upstream of the existing 80-year-old span. (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)

Pattullo Bridge project budget unchanged as bids come in

Builders wary about union-only rules, contractor group says

The B.C. NDP government’s second project under union-only public construction rules is receiving bids from general contractors, but the Pattullo Bridge replacement budget has not jumped like the first one did.

The $1.3 billion replacement of the bridge linking Surrey and New Westminster is scheduled to start by the end of 2019 and be completed in 2023. Built north of the existing 80-year-old structure, the new bridge will still have four vehicle lanes, plus pedestrian and bike lanes and a new off-ramp to Highway 17, the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

The new “community benefits agreement” requiring project workers to join one of 19 building trades unions adds seven per cent to the cost, or about $100 million, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said when the requirements were announced.

“There has been no change to the project budget of $1.377 billion,” the ministry said in a statement this week. “The Pattullo Bridge replacement project is currently in the request for proposals stage of procurement, which is confidential and ongoing.”

The first project, four-laning a section of the Trans-Canada Highway near Revelstoke, saw a 35 per cent jump in costs when the contract was awarded in May. The ministry attributed to the increase to “a shortage of skilled trades” that pushed up labour costs, plus increases in steel and asphalt costs.

RELATED: Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada four-laning project

RELATED: Vancouver Island interchange project completion delayed

Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, said some members of his group are considering bids but are reluctant to impose traditional union rules on their workforce. He expects the restrictions to reduce the number of bidders and push up costs beyond the $100 million predicted, as non-union and open-shop companies take a pass.

Going through a union hiring hall means companies lose the ability to choose workers, and efficiencies are also lost, de Jong said.

“A labourer can never do anything that resembles carpentry, a carpenter can never do anything that resembles truck driving,” he said. “They all have to stay in their own jurisdiction, and that adds a lot of money and complication to how you design work.”

Non-union companies can hire direct, and those affiliated with independent unions such as the Christian Labour Association of Canada can hire by name rather than union seniority, allowing them to keep the same team together from one job to the next.

“That’s the secret sauce for a construction company, the power of their workforce asset,” de Jong said.

The NDP government moved the Pattullo Bridge replacement ahead of a proposed replacement for the George Massey tunnel linking Richmond and Delta. The ministry is studying whether a replacement tunnel is a feasible replacement for the congested passage under the Fraser River.

Like the tunnel, the aging Pattullo is vulnerable to a ship strike or moderate earthquake, with narrow lanes and supports that have seen decades of river erosion.

The government says the new public construction rules will result in more local hiring and use of apprentices. The Independent Contractors and Business Association cites statistics from the government’s Industry Training Authority showing three out of four apprentices are sponsored by open-shop companies, not building trades unions that run their own training facilities.


@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

Pixabay image
Surrey recovers 29,000 jobs it lost to pandemic

That’s according to Surrey Board of Trade’s fifth Surrey Labour Market Intelligence Report on COVID-19

A worker is seen throwing a chicken in an undercover video in 2017 filmed by California-based animal rights activists Mercy For Animals.
Fraser Valley chicken abuse trial delayed until February

Originally scheduled for a jury trial, Sofina and Chilliwack company now face judge alone

Desmond Tompkins helped curate and host a youth art show at the South Surrey/White Rock Learning Centre. (Contributed photo)
South Surrey/White Rock Learning Centre art show highlights ‘diverse perspectives’

With COVID-19 protocols in place, youth art show underway

The SACH Community Hub team, from left to right: Upkar Singh Tatlay, Gary Thandi, Allysha Ram, Jassy Pandher, Harman Pander. (Submitted photo)
There’s help for South Asian men wrestling with drug addiction in Surrey

South Asian deaths related to toxic drugs increased by 255 per cent between 2015 and 2018

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) is looking into the death of man discovered Jan. 11 in east Maple Ridge. (Black Press files)
B.C.’s police watchdog investigating man’s death in Maple Ridge

Man was found dead Jan. 11 after recent contact with police

Chilliwack Law Courts. (Black Press file)
Man sentenced to 20 months for sexual offences involving a minor in Mission

Will Laws Clark was 22 and victim was 13 at time offences began

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

The Abbotsford Tulip Festival is permanently closing, with plans to eventually set up in Armstrong, B.C. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Abbotsford Tulip Festival is closing, with plans to rebloom in Armstrong

Event organizer says pandemic and sale of land were factors in decision

Most Read