Union-only public contracting for major hydroelectric projects in B.C. dates back to the Social Credit era. But the world and the B.C. construction sector have moved on in the half-century since then. Virtually all construction (except single-family homes) was done union in the 1970s, but today only a small and shrinking fraction is. Unions long since ceased to be the main trainers of construction workers, and labour peace and stability has been in place for decades.
VANCOUVER – The B.C. Government’s delay tactics trying to slow down a court challenge of David Eby’s proportional representation referendum process are disappointing and harm the public interest, said the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) today.
ICBA is challenging the referendum process, saying it violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Today in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, lawyers for the Attorney General were successful in getting hearings pushed all the way to September, just weeks before voting is set to begin Oct. 22.
“It’s hard to imagine that the NDP Government needs more time – it’s their rules, it’s their process and it’s their referendum,” said Chris Gardner, president of ICBA. “This is a matter of vital importance to British Columbians, and its incumbent on the Attorney General to respond and defend the referendum and a process that many independent observers have rightly criticized.”
The delay means the current limitations on debate and election advertising will remain in effect. ICBA plans to file for an injunction in early August – the earliest available opportunity. “The question is confusing, the process was rushed, and there was little consultation,” said Gardner. “British Columbians deserve better than this.”
“The government has made it clear it will do whatever it takes to prevent our petition from being heard in a timely way,” said Gardner. “We’re not going away – the issues are simply too important to give up in the face of the government’s attempt to prevent these issues from being heard in a timely manner.”
The ICBA petition lays out arguments that the prop rep referendum process is flawed legally and violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including:
- It is not consistent with the NDP Government’s own Referendum Act, which calls for “a clear statement of the majority of voters on whether to implement a well-defined and comprehensible new voting system, or to keep the existing electoral system”;
- It violates foundational constitutional principles, which require a binding referendum on matters of fundamental importance, “endorsed by a clear majority on a clear question”;
- It does not meet sections 2(b) and 3 of the Charter, “which give British Columbians the right to meaningfully participate in a fair and comprehensible referendum process”;
- It does not meet sections 2(b) and 2(d) of the Charter, which require that “British Columbians be able to fully express themselves and debate fundamental changes to the design of the democratic system”;
- The regulations unlawfully restrict freedom of expression, freedom of debate on matters of public interest, and freedom of association; and
- The Rural-Urban prop rep option, which is not in existence anywhere in the world, violates sections 3 and 15 of the Charter as it creates two different electoral systems that would operate simultaneously.
For the full text of ICBA’s challenge, click HERE.
The NDP claim today’s “community benefit agreement” announcement is about getting more people into construction.
That’s an outright lie.
Their true agenda was revealed hours after their press conference:
“Anyone wanting to work on the Pattullo and other public infrastructure projects will have to sign up with the NDP-run hiring hall. Within 30 days of employment on a given job site, any non-union worker — or any member of a union not in partnership with the NDP — will be required to join an approved union for the duration of the project.
“Forced unionization in other words, and with selected, NDP-approved unions.”
That’s about putting tens of millions of dollars in forced union dues, benefits payments, training fees, and uncollectable pension payments into the failing Building Trades unions. It’s about repaying them for the hundreds of thousands of dollars they’ve given the NDP over the years. It’s about gouging the taxpayer to prop up a failing union model that now represents fewer than 15% of construction workers.
It’s disgusting. If the unions want work, compete to get it in an open, fair, transparent bidding process. But they can’t – and this morning their NDP allies tried to hide the truth from taxpayers.
Shame on them.
ICBA media coverage from yesterday’s NDP announcement forcing all construction workers on provincial projects to join the Building Trades unions:
BURNABY – In a cynical effort to pay back his Building Trades union supporters and donors, Premier John Horgan is reviving an obsolete, expensive, highly bureaucratic way of building the Pattullo Bridge and other vital infrastructure, said the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) today.
“All anyone wants is a fair shot at work, but John Horgan has tilted the playing field to favour the 15% of the workforce represented by the Building Trades unions that have given his NDP Government millions of dollars in political donations and support,” said Chris Gardner, president of ICBA. “Today’s announcement was long on cost for taxpayers but short on details from government. Procurement should be open, fair and transparent – not a payoff for political favours.”
Horgan’s model is built on the 1990s Vancouver Island Highway project, which saw workers forced to join unions, get hired through union hiring halls and pay union dues. This drove up labour costs by 40%, according to a study done for the Vancouver Board of Trade at the time.
“This is the failed Island Highway model all over again – but even worse, as Horgan fails to understand that 85% of the industry is not affiliated with his union supporters,” said Gardner. “With nearly $30 billion in government construction projects planned over the next three years, project delays and overpaying by creating a union monopoly will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.”
The B.C. Government has delayed the Pattullo Bridge project for almost a year, simply to make this deal with the Building Trades unions. “It’s disappointing to see such a vital project used as a political football by the NDP,” said Gardner. “The new Pattullo would already be under way if it wasn’t about paying back political favours.”
ICBA is the single largest sponsor of trades apprentices in British Columbia, with more than 1,200 men and women going through the certification process.
“Fair, transparent and open bidding should be a cornerstone value in a democracy like B.C. Whether you are union or open shop, you should have a fair shot at work put out by government,” said Gardner. “Unfortunately, this changed today, and ICBA is committed to fighting tooth and nail to ensure that fairness and transparency prevail when government projects are tendered.”
For a backgrounder outlining ICBA concerns about Horgan’s project labour agreements, click HERE.
As it prepares to spend billions on public infrastructure, we are deeply troubled by the NDP government’s determination to force construction workers to join unions, to reward its political allies with public funds, and to deliver less value and higher costs to taxpayers.
All this will result from what the NDP is re-branding as ‘Community Benefit Agreements’, historically known as Project Labour Agreements.
PLAs bind contractors who win public bids to union agreements they never negotiated. They require union memberships for non-union workers, antiquated union-hall hiring, and they deliver windfalls to the favoured unions involved.
PLAs inevitably and dramatically drive up complexity and costs, and override the free choice of 85% of B.C. construction workers who abandoned the traditional building trade unions long ago. And for what? Labour peace that we already have? Employment equity and training opportunities that we know can be more effectively delivered in other ways?
While John Horgan calls it a success story, people who have actually worked under PLAs will tell you they are a miser-able failure and a massive infringement of workers’ rights. Union exclusivity in the B.C. construction industry went extinct decades ago. Today, we respect the choices workers make about workplace representation, and we expect fairness in public procurement and good value for taxpayer money.
Denying opportunity and picking favourites is no way to build a province. The fundamentally unfair and inefficient PLA approach Horgan’s been promoting needs to remain firmly in the past.
The Problem with the NDP’s Project Labour Agreements
We’ve Been Down This Road Before
The Island Highway Project under the last NDP government is a prime example of a Project Labour Agreement in action. Today’s NDP is counting on short memories when it claims the project was a success. Already an out-of-date model in the 1990s, there is no economic or social justification for PLAs in B.C. today. Read more
By Chris Gardner, President, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.
This piece first appeared in the Sunday Province on July 15, 2018, and is available for all media outlets to publish, free-of-charge.
Last Halloween, Justin Trudeau launched a thousand photo ops by wearing a Superman costume into the House of Commons. Now it’s time for the Prime Minister to show Canadians what kind of Man of Steel he wants to be.
Canada is in the early stages of a potential all-out trade war with the United States, brought about by the general anti-free trade leaning of the Trump administration and specifically by the new tariffs imposed by Washington on American imports of Canadian steel and aluminum.
In response, Canada levied $16.2 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods entering Canada. The tariffs were strategically chosen to apply to items produced in targeted U.S. congressional districts so that American communities that depend on Canadian markets feel pain. By doing so, Canadian officials hope to apply enough pressure on congressional representatives that the Trump administration reconsiders their ill-advised tariff measures. So far so good.
However, included with Canada’s retaliatory measures is a 25% duty on imported steel products, which will impact B.C., whose sole source of Canadian steel is a relatively small mill in Edmonton that supplies just one-tenth of what B.C. needs. Local demand for steel cannot be met by steel mills in central Canada – the reality we face in B.C. is that nearly all our steel comes from the U.S., Turkey and Asia.
Since the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect more than 25 years ago, the continent’s economy has evolved into a complex, intertwined series of supply chains that help reduce costs by increasing efficiencies and by building mutual competitive advantages. The benefits have been substantial, mutual, and in the best interests of both countries. Read more
Have you ever wondered how emotionally intelligent you are, or what your Emotional Quotient (EQ) is? Let our training department help you answer these questions with our half-day workshop on July 24 in Burnaby called Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – The Myths and the Mastery!
This workshop is designed for all employees and has proven to be an exceptionally powerful and practical learning experience that will benefit participants in their professional and personal lives. You’ll learn how to build better relationships, learn to stay calm and deal with stress more effectively, deal with difficult people and negative energy, and achieve greater happiness.
Here’s what’s covered:
- What EQ really means in practical, everyday, real world terms
- Why EQ is a far more important success factor than IQ
- The EQ – Happiness Connection
- How to identity your current level of EQ
- The predictable attitudes and behaviors of low EQ people
- Four sure-fire strategies on how to develop truly healthy EQ
- How to deal with unreasonable people with low EQ
- How to achieve the delicate balance of intellect and emotion and make “common sense decisions
- How EQ impacts your ability to build and sustain productive relationships
- How to assert yourself to ensure you get your needs met without appearing like a bully
- How to stay positive around negative people
You can register for this workshop or any of our other courses at www.icba.ca/training! And while you’re there, don’t forget to subscribe to our training newsletter at www.icba.ca/trainingnewsletter. We look forward to seeing you at some of our upcoming courses!
Yesterday, hundreds of friends, family, and employees of Ed Rempel gathered in Abbotsford to say goodbye to the gentle, generous man who helped found Rempel Bros. Concrete, Lower Mainland Steel, Greenbank Sand and Gravel, Lower Mainland Concrete Products and ICBA.
As Bill Kerkhoff mentioned in his tribute, Ed was a life member of ICBA, one of our founders, and one of our first presidents. Importantly, he and his brother Ewald made sure open shop contractors had the concrete they needed to build their projects in the tumultuous 1970s and 1980s, helping make the construction industry a fair, even playing field for all companies.
Thank you for everything, Ed. We will never forget you.
And our love to Myrtle-Ann, his wife of 60 years who holds a dear spot in our hearts.
For more on Ed’s contributions to ICBA, see https://www.icbaindependent.ca/…/…/11/remembering-ed-rempel/
Ed’s family put together this lovely video tribute:
What are you doing for breakfast on July 18? Our training department invites you to our next Burnaby breakfast session on Navigating Human Rights Law.
Do you have an employee requesting human rights accommodation, such as a parent requesting childcare accommodation or an employee requesting accommodation for a physical or mental disability? Which ones should you grant?
What about an employee claiming discrimination on the basis of a protected ground under the Code (age, sex, race, disability, family status, religion, etc.)? Have they filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal? How do you respond to such a complaint? Our breakfast session is here to help you answer these important questions. We know that navigating human rights in the workplace can be complicated, and we want to help you prepare.
Here’s what’s covered:
- Human rights protections in BC
- An employer’s legal obligations
- When to accommodate
- When and how to investigate a human rights complaint
- How to respond to a human rights complaint filed with the Tribunal
You don’t have to be a member to attend any of our courses, but you will save on your course fees! Register now at www.icba.ca/training.
Last week, ICBA filed a suit against the NDP Government’s flawed, rigged proportional representation referendum process. The news media has taken notice:
- Vancouver Sun columnist Ian Mulgrew recapped our arguments
- FSJ’s Energetic City posted our full filing
- Black Press
- Canadian Press
- News 1130
- Business in Vancouver looks at why ICBA filed:“We think that a strong stable government, a majority government – whether it’s from the left or the right – is fundamentally important to our economic prosperity, our long-term economic growth,” Gardner said. “All of the big projects and initiatives that have defined British Columbia have been the result of a government which has a majority putting a vision in front of British Columbians and pursuing those goals. When you go to proportional representation, you’re going to have fringe parties from the left and right, you’re going to have ballot with 25, 30 parties on it, it will be confusing, there will be a lot of backroom dealing, there will be more instability. And instability is not good for our economy.”