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Exclusive deal with union boosts smelter cost

It comes as no surprise to the B.C. construction industry that Rio Tinto’s smelter expansion project is now 45 per cent over budget and behind schedule. That is the cost of doing business with the building trades unions. Exclusive deals with the building trades unions unnecessarily limit access to the labour pool.

At Rio Tinto, this resulted in project delays and cost overruns. Although they boast thousands of workers, this group of unions represents less than 20 per cent of B.C.’s total construction workforce.

Contrast this to projects like construction for the 2010 Olympic Games, the Port Mann Bridge, the Sea to Sky Highway, the Canada Line and the Gibraltar and Copper Mountain mines. They were delivered on time, on budget and everyone worked side by side regardless of their labour affiliation.

These projects were successful because they used the open shop inclusive approach, which taps into the entire B.C. construction labour pool and has resulted in labour stability for the past 30 years.

Companies considering building major projects in B.C. should look to the Rio Tinto deal and steer away from this approach. Pipeline companies should also think twice about getting into bed with the building trades unions, even if they think it will only cost a “little more” to get social licence.

LNG proponents and others should use this as an example that to build a project successfully in B.C., you need to encourage everyone to participate, not a select minority.

B.C. needs all hands on deck and can’t afford the exclusive alternative that is costing Rio Tinto billions more.

Competition and inclusion have served our province well for more than 30 years; it is the only way forward for B.C.’s big projects of the future.