Contract employees build soil conveyor for Site C dam in northeast B.C., spring 2019. Site C was B.C. Hydro’s first “open-shop” construction site, a point of contention between the previous B.C. Liberal government and the current NDP government. (B.C. Hydro)

B.C. union construction dispute directed to Labour Relations Board

Building Trades celebrate as B.C. Supreme Court declines case

The B.C. Supreme Court has declined to hear an application by independent contractors and unions challenging the B.C. government’s union hiring restrictions on public construction projects.

The lawsuit challenges the NDP government’s requirement that project workers have to join one of 19 designated building trades unions to work on major projects, so far including Highway 1 widening work east of Kamloops, replacement of the Pattullo bridge from New Westminster to Surrey and the Broadway subway line in Vancouver.

The B.C. Building Trades Council, representing traditional trade unions that benefit from the NDP government’s agreement, said it’s the second time a B.C. court has directed the dispute to the B.C. Labour Relations Board.

The decision means “their criticisms do not rise to the level of issues heard by the court,” Andrew Mercier, executive director of the B.C. Building Trades, said in a statement.

The case was brought by Canada West Union and the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), which represents 14,000 trades people in B.C., and members of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada. The legal challenge also includes the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA) and the Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA).

Mercier said Monday’s B.C. Supreme Court ruling is the latest of similar results in a series of challenges to what the B.C. government calls “community benefits agreements” that restrict hiring to 19 mostly U.S.-based unions.

“The Merit Contractors Association, which is affiliated with the ICBA through Merit Canada, challenged Manitoba Hydro’s union membership policy in 2012,” the B.C. Building Trades statement says. “The case was dismissed by Queens Bench of Manitoba and again on appeal.”

Former premier Christy Clark directed B.C. Hydro to build its Site C project as an open shop, with large portions of the work going to CLAC and affiliated contractors. It was the first hydro project not to be subject to a union benefits agreement with the B.C. Building Trades.

In 2018, the John Horgan government set up a new corporation called B.C. Infrastructure Benefits to administer the “community benefits agreement” for the three projects. Running to more than 300 pages, the agreement details union hiring, a new administration fee on hourly pay, and dues collection, requiring employees to join one of the designated unions within 30 days on the job.

RELATED: Contractors, unions in court against B.C. union-only construction

RELATED: Cost jumps 35% for Revelstoke highway widening project

On the fourth phase of Kicking Horse Canyon widening project for Highway 1, B.C. Infrastructure Benefits estimates the union agreement will add $35 million to the cost.

“As an association that represents both union and open-shop companies, we know this government policy not only shuts out the majority of the construction workforce but also offloads significant risk to contractors,” VRCA president Fiona Famulak said. “This, together with the bureaucracy that’s been created to administer this antiquated labour model, unnecessarily inflates the costs of public projects by tens of millions of dollars that ultimately will be paid for by B.C. taxpayers.”


@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

Signs of support to be posted on grounds of local hospitals

Individuals can purchase signs through program of Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation

Abbotsford politicians and city staff to consider cash-flow questions, tax deferments

Mayor says it’s unclear how many residents and business owners will be able to pay taxes on time

Sex offender charged again less than two months after prison release

Taylor Dueck, who was living in Mission, has history of sex assaults in Abbotsford

Cop who lives in Mission awarded almost $3.2 million for 2 car crashes

Jeffery Neufeldt was injured on the job in collisions in 2013 and 2016

Charity website hopes to help Abbotsford food bank

Residents urged to post their stuff for sale and donate proceeds

‘The Office’ star John Krasinski offers Some Good News in trying times

‘The human spirit still found a way to break through and blow us all away’

World COVID-19 updates: Putin may be exposed; 30,000 prisoners released

Comprehensive news update from around the world as of Tuesday, March 31.

Liberals delay release of 75% wage subsidy details, costs: Morneau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

‘This is no joke’: B.C. woman in Alberta hospital asks people to stay home during COVID-19

‘I want people to start listening to what the doctors are saying. This is no joke, please stay home’

Rest stops barring washroom access to truckers a ‘huge problem’ as COVID-19 spreads

Teamsters Canada says truckers are increasingly being denied warm meals

Canadians asked to wash mailboxes, keep dogs at bay, to ensure safe mail delivery

Four postal workers in Canada have tested positive for COVID-19 infection:

Hospitality workers hit ‘first and hit hardest,’ says union seeking more support

Union represents workers in hotels, casinos, airports, arenas, universities, schools and remote resource camps

South Surrey hikers discover decades-old campsite hidden in Golden Ears Park

Group reconnects with original campers through social media, returns log book

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Most Read