It’s coming – an environment where construction workers aren’t exploited

Monday, March 11, 2019

From the Editor - Tom Sigurdson

Let's be clear, the BC Liberals are clearly anti-labour!

If there was any expectation, anticipation or a whisper of hope that the BC Liberals wanted to improve their relationship with labour, that hope has been dashed, evaporated into thin air, gone.

Most if not all of us will remember the election of Gordon Campbell and his team in 2001. Within weeks of taking control of the levers of power, he tore up the agreement with healthcare workers. Within months of being in government, all compulsory trades in B.C. were abolished as a political payback to the anti-union contractors who supported the BC Liberals. The government eviscerated the apprenticeship system in our province for which we continue to pay a high price for their ideological ignorance. Within a few short years, the BC Liberal government had reduced funding to the Labour Relations Board by almost 50 per cent. Near the end of their term of government, the BC Liberals went out of their way to change the procurement policy for BC Hydro’s Site C project, ending a decades-old model using BC Building Trades members in favour of importing 24 per cent of workers from other provinces to work the project. These actions and more were direct attacks on workers in British Columbia who were targeted by the government simply for belonging to legitimate unions.

In July of this year, the BC NDP government led by John Horgan introduced Community Benefits Agreement language for public projects. Contractors bidding on public works must now enact hiring provisions for apprentices. What a novel concept given we are facing a serious skills shortage in less than 10 years. In addition, contractors are encouraged to hire women, which is absolutely necessary if we are to manage our skills shortage and mitigate the impact of 16 years of the BC Liberal damage to the apprenticeship system. Contractors will also need to demonstrate a framework for Indigenous inclusion, which will hopefully attract greater participation in the building trades by First Nations members, especially youth, who will again help bolster the numbers of people we need in our trades to replace the number of members who are retiring.

And yes (we say proudly YES), if a public project is built under a Community Benefits Agreement, workers on those projects will join the appropriate union representing their craft. Imagine, non-union workers doing the same or similar work being paid the same rate as union workers on the same project. Imagine, a benefit plan and pension contributions that actually help workers look after their families today and secure their retirement for tomorrow. Imagine workers who never served an apprenticeship being assessed for their Red Seal and, if necessary, having access to appropriate training.

The BC Liberals behave as if the requirement of having to join the appropriate craft union is catastrophic, a fate worse than death. They have shouted in the legislature about the shameful forced unionization of workers. But these were the same BC Liberals who saw Costa Rican workers on the Canada Line working for less than $4 per hour. They have cried to the media about how unjust it is for contractors to force their non-union workers into a unionized environment. But these were the same Liberals who said nothing when a contractor skipped out leaving 80 European ironworkers without their last pay cheque or any means of returning home – B.C. taxpayers paid for those airfares.

It is extraordinary to listen to a group of elected MLAs oppose public policy that promotes work for British Columbians; enhances training opportunities for our youth; embraces more women coming into the trades and provides and promotes Indigenous inclusion, simply because they don’t like legitimate unions. Their debate in the legislature has been disappointing. Their comments at times have been ludicrous. But it is in keeping with their anti-labour and anti-worker ideology.

For More Information: 

Contact the BC Building Trades office
(778) 397-2220

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