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OFF THE CLUFF: BC 2019 Construction Wage Trends w/ Chris Gardner

Yesterday, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association has released its annual Wage and Benefit survey, tracking trends in the construction industry. It has both good and bad news. In good news, construction workers can expect an average 5.1 per cent pay bump this year, and another 5.3 per cent next year.

But in bad news, a majority of construction companies think the BC Government is headed in the wrong direction when it comes to managing the economy. Only 8 per cent of companies believe the NDP is on the right track; 51 per cent say they’re on the wrong track.

Chris Gardner is the President of ICBA, and joined TheOrca.ca’s Rick Cluff in studio to break down the numbers.

TRAINING THURSDAY: Understanding the Employment Standards Act

Understanding the Employment Standards Act can be complicated. We’d hate for you to find out you weren’t in compliance with the Act and face months of back pay. Join us for breakfast!

Our Employment Standards Act Refresher breakfast session on February 25 in Victoria or April 12 in Burnaby will give you a review of Employment Standards Act requirements that are particularly relevant to construction industry employers. These include:

  • Employment contracts
  • Who is a “manager”
  • Hours of work and overtime
  • Averaging agreements for hours of work
  • Termination of employment
  • Vacation and statutory holidays
  • Independent contractors vs. employees
  • Impact of the common law

You’ll also earn 2 Group A CPD Points from BC Housing for this two-hour seminar.

You can register for this or any of our upcoming courses atwww.icba.ca/courses. And while you’re there, subscribe to our training newsletter at www.icba.ca/trainingnewsletter.

NEWS RELEASE – Construction Wages to Increase 10%: ICBA

VANCOUVER – B.C. construction workers should see pay raises of more than 10 per cent over the next two years, according to the results of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association’s (ICBA) 2019 Wage and Benefits Survey. But there is a sense that storm clouds are gathering on the horizon for this vitally-important industry.

ICBA President Chris Gardner released the results of its annual survey of 1,000 construction companies Wednesday morning at ICBA’s 22nd annual CEO Breakfast, kicking off the BUILDEX construction tradeshow at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

“The state of construction in B.C. is strong with just over half our companies expecting more work in 2019 than the year before,” said Gardner. “The industry is firing on all cylinders and then some.”

Construction in B.C. now employs nearly 250,000 people and contributes almost 9 per cent of the provincial GDP. This year, survey respondents said they expect to give their workers a 4.8% raise; in 2020, they expect another 5.3% increase. That’s more than double the rate of inflation.

The ICBA Wage and Benefits Survey also noted:

  • Interior: 37% of contractors expect more work in 2019 than last year; 78% say they are short of workers, especially labourers, carpenters and framers.
  • North: 64% of contractors expect more work in 2019 than last year; 68% say they are short of workers, especially carpenters, labourers and welders.
  • Vancouver Island: 29% of contractors expect more work in 2019 than last year; 82% say they are short of workers, especially carpenters, labourers and plumbers.
  • Lower Mainland: 54% of contractors expect more work in 2019 than last year; 78% say they are short of workers, especially carpenters, labourers and plumbers.

“Worker shortages are not a problem unique to construction – retail, food, tourism and many other industries are experiencing things as the B.C. workforce ages,” said Gardner. “This demographic cliff is partly why construction continues to be an exciting and appealing career for a quarter million British Columbians – there is plenty of work, and good workers are being well-paid, well-trained and well-rewarded.”

But construction company owners are worried about the direction the B.C. Government is taking the economy. Of those surveyed, only 8% said John Horgan’s NDP government was on the right track in dealing with businesses like theirs. More than half – 51% – said Horgan was on the wrong track, while another 41% said they didn’t know.

“The NDP government is actively discriminating against 85% of construction workers in B.C. by forcing them to join a specially-selected union if they want to work on projects like the new Pattullo Bridge,” said Gardner. “Add in the NDP’s opposition to project likes Trans Mountain and the Massey Tunnel replacement; reams of new red tape; and $5.5 billion in tax hikes, and it’s no wonder so many job creators are worried about the direction B.C. is headed.”

For results of the 2019 ICBA Wage and Benefits Survey, including several infographics that can be used by media, click HERE.

OP/ED: Why is the NDP government collecting email addresses?

This op-ed appeared in The Province on February 11, 2019.

A long time ago, a wizened veteran of a thousand political campaigns told me the most important demographic he looked at was the rate of home ownership.

Kid, he said, in that cynical way only grizzled campaigners can muster, homeowners vote Socred (or, in the modern era, B.C. Liberal), renters vote NDP.

Of course, nothing in politics is ever that cut-and-dried. Even the NDP know they need some homeowners to support them if they ever hope to have a majority government.

That’s why one particular piece of information collected on the speculation tax exemption form should give voters pause. No, not the social insurance number, or overreaching personal details, or what you do with your private property.

It’s your email address.

Why is the NDP government sending out 1.6 million letters to homeowners to capture, maybe, 20,000 British Columbians who should pay the tax? Email addresses.

Claims that the speculation tax opt-out process is just like the homeowners’ grant process are false. To get that $570 tax saving, you must sign your property tax form or — if you pay online — click a box. Easy peasy.

The speculation tax is different.

Don’t take my word for it. Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer says the speculation tax forms are far more complicated:

“Whereas the ministry admits that on average an exempt property owner will need up to 20 minutes to complete the speculation tax application — and that is a lowball estimate in my opinion. It takes much more than 20 minutes to navigate the more than two dozen pages of information about the tax and its exemptions posted on the ministry website.”

Then, of course, your spouse has to repeat the process — and hand over his or her email address too.

The crazy thing is that the homeowners’ grant can only be claimed if the property is the taxpayer’s “principal residence.” It would have been simple to cross-reference databases and eliminate those properties from the initial tax, saving maybe a million bucks, time and a batch of bad press.

So why bother with such an intrusive rollout?

There is only one piece of personal information on that speculation tax exemption form that government can’t get through its myriad of databases: email addresses.

I’m not suggesting that the NDP government or the provincial bureaucracy would directly email British Columbians partisan messaging. This would be immediately caught by the Privacy Commissioner and be a public-relations disaster.

But what’s to stop the government from dumping those email addresses into Facebook or other social media advertising platforms in order to “better communicate” with British Columbians or target government-friendly ads to homeowners? Or to analyze the data and create “like audiences” to market?

The NDP have a historic disadvantage with homeowners — what better way to soften and/or test messaging with them than by social media?

There is no compelling reason why the NDP government needs our email addresses for this speculation-tax exemption. Indeed, cybersecurity experts and academic researchers have been saying for years that you shouldn’t collect information you don’t need (or plan to use) — because then you have a duty to protect it.

One presumes the government has plans to use its database of 1.6 million email addresses for something. But what? Will the Privacy Commissioner weigh in to stop them? Will the B.C. Liberals or the B.C. Green party kick up a fuss in Question Period?

Even the most cynical campaigner has to tip their tinfoil hat to the NDP on this one.

TRAINING THURSDAY: Communication Skills

Communication is important, whether it’s at work or at home. Do you know your own communication style and how to work with others with differing styles? Our Communication Skills workshop February 14-15 in Burnaby will help!

This workshop is designed to improve your communication skills as a supervisor and manager, both in the office and in the field. You’ll learn effective leadership through communication skills, how to deal with difficult people, how to prepare for and facilitate meetings, and much more! Here’s the full course outline:

  • Effective Leadership through Communication Skills
  • Dealing with Difficult People, Conflict and Confrontation
  • Assertive Training and Speaking Skills
  • Communicating Motivation
  • Communication through Body Language
  • Managing a Good Impression to Clients
  • Constructive Use of Anger and Persuasion Skills
  • Anger and Conflict Management Skills
  • Communicating Discipline and Termination
  • Resolving Disputes through Communication
  • How to Prepare for and Facilitate Meetings
  • Communication through Writing Skills
  • Drafting and Preparing Proper Reports and Correspondence
  • Communicating Teamwork to Staff and Workers

This two-day workshop also gives you 5 Gold Seal Credits and 14 Group A CPD points from BC Housing. We’ll also be in Victoria March 6 to 7 and in Kelowna March 28-29. Register for any of our upcoming workshops at www.icba.ca/courses. If you can’t make our February course in Burnaby, we’ll be back on May 6 to 7.

We can also provide this or any of our other courses as a private session for you and your employees! You can email our training team at training@icba.ca for more information.

TRAINING THURSDAY: Cannabis in the Workplace

With the changes to the legal status of cannabis, many employers have questions!

What are the rights, responsibilities and risks to employers regarding cannabis in the workplace? What is the impact of recreational or medical use of this drug on your organization and for those in safety-sensitive positions? For medical use, how do you manage the duty to accommodate process? Do you have the appropriate policy framework in place to face related challenges?

We want to help you, so we’re holding two breakfast sessions on Cannabis in the Workplace. The first will be February 8 in Victoria, and then March 7 in Burnaby. 

Here’s what you’ll learn in this two-hour session:

  • Learn more about the federal “Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations”.
  • Understand that a “prescription” for cannabis does not give an employee the absolute right to use it in the workplace.
  • Understand your rights when it comes to those in Safety-Sensitive positions.
  • Discuss employee and employer obligations with regard to the use of cannabis.
  • Recognize the rights, responsibilities and risks for both employers and employees to avoid unnecessary litigation.
  • Identify the various ways the use of cannabis impacts the employer-employee relationship, and what you can do about it.
  • Identify what employers should be doing to review their workplace drug and alcohol policies.

Register now for these or any of our other upcoming workshops at www.icba.ca/courses! And don’t forget to subscribe to our training newsletter at www.icba.ca/trainingnewsletter

NEWS RELEASE: Sweetheart Deal is Sour for Workers, Employers & Taxpayers

VANCOUVER – The B.C. Government’s sweetheart deal with B.C.’s Building Trades Union cuts out 85 per cent of B.C.’s construction workforce, will cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and undermines opportunities for youth, women and Indigenous workers entering the industry, says a coalition of British Columbia’s largest construction associations and progressive unions.

The newly-formed coalition, representing an industry-wide alignment of companies and workers making up 85 per cent of the construction workforce in B.C., spoke out today as the government and the exclusive Building Trades Union hold a convention in Vancouver celebrating the introduction of preferential Project Labour Agreements (PLAs) to B.C. These agreements contravene the rights and freedoms of the majority of B.C.’s construction workforce.

Under the government’s PLA, workers on the Pattullo Bridge replacement and Highway 1 (Interior) expansion project will be forced to join the government-approved Building Trades Union, operate out of a hiring hall, and be subject to the exclusive rules of the Building Trades Union.

These outcomes result in a new government policy that is openly discriminatory against non-Building Trades Union members and exploitative of B.C. workers and taxpayers. Coalition members believe that B.C. will pay a steep price for this wrongheaded change in how the government delivers infrastructure projects.

“VRCA is a champion of fair, open and transparent procurement practices,” said Vancouver Regional Construction Association president Fiona Famulak. “The PLA is an affront to these principles – not only was it negotiated without full industry consultation, it is prescriptive, and there’s a concerning lack of clarity surrounding its operational roll-out that will force both our open-shop and unionized member companies to bid without a complete understanding of project risk. This will drive up the cost of construction that will ultimately be funded by B.C.’s taxpayers. Simply put, this PLA does not serve our member companies, their skilled tradespeople, or B.C.’s taxpayers.”

“BCCA supports all construction employers and workers, regardless of labour affiliation. When we speak on an issue, we do it based on facts and for the good of the industry,” said B.C. Construction Association president Chris Atchison. “When government makes ideological decisions, B.C. loses. The PLA is a partisan policy that contravenes worker’s rights to freedom of assembly, adds bureaucracy to projects, increases risk, and creates obstacles to workforce development.”

Government and the Building Trades Union’s claims that these PLAs will spark more opportunities for apprenticeship training, and bring more women, Indigenous and young people into the workforce, are demonstrably false.

“The only thing guaranteed about the NDP’s new PLA is the monopoly the Building Trades Union will gain by signing it,” said CLAC provincial director Kevin Kohut, a union which represents thousands of B.C. construction workers. “The lack of stated goals focused on women, Indigenous people and local hires – including any means to measure success – is proof of that. It is absurd to believe that signing a deal that limits participation to 15 per cent of the workforce will result in greater inclusion.”

“You don’t train more women, young workers or people from Indigenous communities by cutting backroom deals and forcing workers to join a government-approved Building Trades Union,” said Ken Baerg, executive director of Canada Works, which represents progressive construction unions. “In a market where the major issue facing construction companies is the shortage of workers, you hire more people and train more people by being inclusive and by investing in more training spaces. The politics of giving workers jobs based on union affiliation is a failed model from generations past that will not work in our new economy where workers want choice and flexibility.”

The four construction associations and two unions, representing 85% of BC’s construction workforce, have joined with the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and several construction companies and professionals to launch a court action to halt the Project Labour Agreements.

“The NDP’s current infrastructure framework is a complete fiasco,” said Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada. “It is unconstitutional in that it tramples on workers’ basic right to freedom of association, and it needlessly wastes public tax dollars. It’s time the B.C. government scrapped this cynical backroom deal and came up with a model that benefits all British Columbians.”

“It’s simply not fair for John Horgan to discriminate against the 85 percent of construction workers who are not part of the old-fashioned building trades hiring hall model where unions control who works,” said Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association. “Construction workers in B.C. deserve better from the NDP government – they deserve choice, fairness and a level playing field. Competition is the best way to keep costs down and reassures the public that government is being fair and transparent, and not just rewarding friends and insiders.”