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

Surrey council approves free two-hour parking at city hall, around hospital

Although council gave its blessing to offer the free parking Monday (Nov. 19), it was already made free last week

Surrey School District says it needs 7 new schools in next decade

Surrey council endorsed the district’s 2019-20 capital plan on Monday, Nov. 19

Surrey Fire Service to provide non-emergency dispatch services for Port Moody

It’s said the move will bring in more than $9,000 a year for the City of Surrey

Second person dies following head-on collision in Surrey

Paige Nagata of Abbotsford was in crash on Nov. 4 that also killed Sarah Dhillon

Man still in hospital after struck by car in Surrey last week

The man was airlifted to hospital with “potential life-threatening” injuries after the incident

White Rock pier light show

Dancing lights highlighted off the water front

Laine scores 3 as Jets double Canucks 6-3

Injury-riddled Vancouver side drops sixth in a row

Deportation averted for Putin critic who feared return to Russia

Elena Musikhina, a vocal critic of the Kremlin, has been granted a two-year visitor’s permit in Canada

B.C. to allow Uber-style ride hailing services to operate in late 2019

Fee will be applied to fund options for disabled people

Auditor general takes aim at Liberals’ fighter-jet plan

Suditor general Michael Ferguson is about to release a new report on Canada’s attempts to buy new fighter jets

B.C. couple converts ambulance into a traveling home

The Revelstoke couple plan on touring B.C. ski hills then driving to Mexico

Cyclist defecates, throws own poop at car following B.C. crash

Man defecates in the street before throwing it at a driver locked in her vehicle

11 years sought for Burnaby man who killed girlfriend with hammer, burned her body

Manslaughter sentencing hearing started Monday in Chilliwack for Ryan Armstrong

Jamie Koe, other curlers kicked out of bonspiel for being too drunk

‘You don’t kick around other players’ bags, it’s disrespectful and we expect better of our players’

Most Read