The Pattullo Bridge between New Westminster and Surrey is due for replacement. (Black Press files)

Non-union builders protest exclusion from B.C. public projects

Premier John Horgan announces new Crown corporation for public works

Premier John Horgan has announced a new Crown corporation for public construction, in an agreement with the B.C. Building Trades unions.

Horgan announced the Pattullo Bridge project will be the first of the province’s new “community benefits agreements,” in reference to local hiring and apprenticeship quotas for government infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and hospitals. The Pattullo project agreement includes priority hiring for women and aboriginal people, Horgan told a news conference at the B.C. Institute of Technology Monday.

Four-laning of the Trans Canada Highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border will also be subject to the new agreement with the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council.

Non-union construction companies warn that restricted bidding for those projects will push up costs, pointing to previous NDP-union projects such as the Island Highway construction in the 1990s.

Horgan first announced his intention to move to union-only projects in March, with the decision to accelerate replacement of the Pattullo Bridge between New Westminster and Surrey. He called the bridge replacement “the perfect template” for a province-wide policy for public construction.

RELATED: Horgan vows union public construction

The location of Monday’s announcement is significant. Horgan and Transportation Minister Claire Trevena chose the Ironworkers training facility at BCIT, a nod to the union that is key to bridge construction.

The B.C. local of the Ironworkers International gave a high-profile endorsement to former premier Christy Clark in the 2017 election, after breaking with its traditional ally the NDP over Horgan’s rejection of a bridge to replace the George Massey Tunnel connecting Richmond and Delta.

RELATED: Ironworkers endorse Clark, rap B.C. Fed

Since forming a minority government, Horgan has also ordered B.C. Hydro to return to union-only construction for its infrastructure. The Site C dam project on the Peace River became the utility’s first open-shop project under the B.C. Liberals, opening up contracts to local aboriginal companies and others not aligned with the B.C. Building Trades Council.

Chris Gardner, president of the non-union Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, says the “rebranding” of union project labour agreements won’t make them work better.

“They require union memberships for non-union workers, antiquated union-hall hiring, and they deliver windfalls to the favoured unions involved,” Gardner said.

He notes that since 1981, the traditional trade union share of B.C. construction work has fallen from 90 per cent to 15 per cent.

Critics of the union-only approach point to the Island Highway project, a series of upgrades to the Trans-Canada Highway between Victoria and Campbell River in the 1990s. The project was completed after a series of cost overruns and reduction in scope, including replacement of interchanges with traffic lights.

One of those, at McKenzie Avenue north of Victoria, is finally getting an interchange installed now.

RELATED: Province to speed up traffic at McKenzie Interchange

Just Posted

Scammer targeting elderly in Kelowna with broken-down vehicle story

A door to door scammer is in Kelowna, targeting seniors according to Kelowna RCMP

Kelowna’s definitive Christmas market list

We’ve prepared a list of every market in the Central Okanagan

Okanagan volunteers reflect on building classrooms in Nepal

Through the charity Her International, the volunteer group built four classrooms

Cool Arts’ double header event features Lake Country artist

Celebration of artist Mark Mercer’s work to run alongside community art night in Kelowna.

Kelowna rallies around father of five after cancer diagnosis

Fundraisers are planned throughout November

Weekend weather update: Crisp and sunny

This weekend will see lots of sunshine and below season temperatures for the Okanagan, Shuswap and Similkameen.

Canada’s health system commendable overall but barriers to care remain: UN

The United Nations says Canada’s health care system is “commendable” overall but vulnerable groups still face barriers to quality care.

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

$224.5 million announced for Highway 1 bridge replacement in Sicamous

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena says bridge option will be announced next month

Kelly Ellard’s boyfriend has statutory release revoked

Darwin Duane Dorozan had several parole infractions that found him ‘unmanageable’

Accident north of Vernon involves SUV and semi truck

Minor delays reported in Highway 97 crash

Ontario driver rolls car in Okanagan

Crash near Vernon follows reports of erratic driving

Doctor’s note shouldn’t be required to prove you’re sick: poll

70% of Canadians oppose allowing employers to make you get a sick note

German-born B.C. man warns against a ‘yes’ vote on proportional representation

Agassiz realtor Freddy Marks says PR in his home country shows party elites can never be voted out

Most Read