Jordan and Maclean ponder life and politics in The Great Isolation, how/if the economy can recover, and more.
Employers – Managing your Way through the COVID-19 Crisis
Tuesday, April 7, Noon-1:30PM
Lawyer Craig Munroe discusses changes to the Employment Standards Act, layoffs in the COVID-19 environment, challenges for construction employers in ensuring a safe workplace, and wage relief programs available to employers and employees.
Navigating the Legal Impacts of COVID-19 in the Construction Sector
Thursday, April 9, Noon-1:30PM
Lawyer Seema Lal discusses construction contract issues, including delay claims, Force Majeure clauses, frustration of contract, and supply chain interruptions.
Jordan and Maclean continue to navigate the strange new political and economic world. Jordan rants about slow-moving government programs. Maclean discusses solitary confinement. Jordan pitches Gordon Campbell as a big idea and public service as big COVID-19 worldview change.
- Exposure and diseases
- Calling a Professional
- Building-Related Illnesses
By Chris Gardner, President, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association
Across the country, provincial governments are closing down major pieces of our economy, protecting the public from the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But one industry that has been tapped to continue is construction.
On Thursday, the BC Government declared construction an essential service, deeming our industry a “daily service essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning.” This means construction, carried out according to new health and safety directives, can continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There has been much debate within the industry about whether construction sites should be shut down or be allowed to continue to operate. This is an important discussion to have, and, ultimately every company owner and their employees will need to make this decision for themselves. There is no playbook for navigating the health and economic crisis that we face because we have never been through anything approaching the scale of what COVID-19 is unleashing.
Decisions to shut down entire sectors of our economy are unprecedented – the measures being taken are ones that were hardly imaginable just a few short weeks ago. Never before has government moved with such purpose and deliberation in an effort to stop the engine of our prosperity and direct millions to simply “stay home.”
The social and economic upheaval we face is agonizing and heart-wrenching for individuals, families and communities. The impact will be harsh and in so many ways, unforgiving. As governments at all levels grapple with the public health consequences of COVID-19, they also need to turn their attention to the disruption and dislocation that is about to be thrust upon our entire population.
We cannot afford missteps at this critical time. We need clear thinking, bold action and new ways of doing business to see us through this crisis in a way that preserves people and communities and ensures that we can continue to deliver on the promise and opportunity that has defined British Columbia for generations.
With the essential service designation comes significant responsibility for everyone in construction —to ourselves, to each other, and to our communities. On numerous occasions, B.C. Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has been crystal clear – construction can continue and can be undertaken safely as long as employers and employees take all appropriate steps to ensure that safe work practices are in place and followed on construction work sites.
We must continue to build, repair and maintain the critical infrastructure our communities rely on to sustain themselves – ports, pipelines, roads, hospitals, schools and homes. And we must do this within the safety directives mandated by the Provincial Health Officer.
I am extremely proud of the leadership and commitment to safety demonstrated by everyone in construction and by how quickly construction professionals, both on and off the job site, have responded with new policies and procedures to ensure everyone goes home safe at the end of every shift. The Provincial Health Officer has set out her orders on how to keep workers safe from COVID-19, with help from WorkSafeBC and the BC Construction Safety Alliance. These measures are not optional – they are the rules of doing business in the new reality we face today.
Many construction companies have gone beyond those measures and put even more stringent safety protocols in place. This is one of those unique moments in history that requires all of us to act together, share ideas, information, and best practices, and most importantly, stick to the health and safety directives every single hour of every single day.
In this time of great crisis, I know that today’s construction leaders will demonstrate the same spirit, resilience and resolve as our industry’s predecessors who defined and built this great province. Let’s do everything we can to help our families, colleagues and communities meet the challenges before us, to follow the directives of the Provincial Health Officer, and to keep our teams working and safe.
Kerry and Jordan discuss two of ICBA’s hundreds of online courses (and a bit about the HBO documentary McMillion$):
WHMIS (https://icba.simplesignup.ca/en/1141/index.php…) – The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), Canada’s national hazard communication standard, has incorporated the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) – an internationally recognized standard for hazard classification and communication. Our new WHMIS 2015 online course also contains WHMIS 1988 information. $34.95
COVID-19 Action Planning (https://www.bistrainer.com/…/coronavirus-covid-19-action-pl…) – COVID-19: Action Plan for the Workplace course is designed to help employers and managers prepare and respond to exposure and illness caused by COVID-19. Organizational plans that take into account policies and procedures, human resources matters, and supply and production issues can help companies and employees prepare for the health pandemic. Being prepared, yet flexible enough to adapt to an ever-changing situation, supports an entire organization. FREE UNTIL APRIL 30.
Stay safe, everyone!
The following op-ed, written by ICBA President Chris Gardner, first appeared in the Journal of Commerce on March 23, 2020.
The John Horgan NDP seems locked in a time warp – they just can’t get enough of that ’90s British Columbia, especially when it comes to paying off their friends in the building trades unions.
First, it was the unfair, confusing, and costly Community Benefits Agreements (building trades union-only hiring) that prevents 85% of B.C.’s construction workers from working on taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects like the Pattullo Bridge replacement. Those agreements are already sending projects over budget by tens of millions of dollars.
Now they are looking at another silly, outdated plan – straight from the 1990s playbook – reinstating compulsory trades.
A trade is compulsory in construction when a person is not allowed to legally work on a jobsite unless they are a registered journeyperson or are enrolled in a government-approved apprenticeship program.
It has been nearly 20 years since B.C. had “compulsory trades,” as the industry long ago recognized the multiple pathways a worker takes to acquire skills to become a journeyperson or to pursue other career aspirations.
Ask government officials what will be accomplished by imposing compulsory trades and you mostly get a blank stare. Ask what data there is to demonstrate compulsory trades will improve quality, safety or training, and a look of panic usually sets in.
Supporters of this misguided policy, generally the traditional building trades unions, claim compulsory trades results in more people completing an apprenticeship. It doesn’t – otherwise union completion rates would be sky-high. But they’re not: completion rates across union and non-union apprentices typically averages between 35 and 40 percent.
Further, the building trades model has been in freefall for a generation. Of the approximately 250,000 men and women who work in construction in B.C. today, only about 15% are represented by these traditional unions that are increasingly finding themselves out-of-step with a modern world where workers are seeking choice and flexibility and a stronger voice in how work is performed.
And the unions are hardly apprenticing anyone, anymore – the Industry Training Authority reports the non-union sector sponsors 82% of BC’s apprentices.
If the provincial government was serious about improving apprenticeship completion rates, they wouldn’t bring in compulsory trades. Instead, they would improve the information about apprenticeship training and address the shortage of training spaces and chronic waitlists at public post-secondary institutions where the trades are taught.
Over the last two decades, enabling – rather than stifling – flexible work arrangements has improved productivity in the construction industry, reduced costs, improved innovation and, importantly, addressed today’s construction workers’ desire for more enriched work experiences and the acquisition of broader skill sets.
At ICBA, we recently released the results of our annual wage and benefit survey of construction contractors. The market remains extremely busy, with 90% of contractors surveyed indicating that 2020 would be as busy or busier than 2019 and 64% of our members indicating that the number one challenge facing their business was the shortage of workers.
A 2013 study by the C.D. Howe Institute underscores the other core pitfalls of compulsory trades training. It notes that rather than regulating “entry” into apprenticeship training – as compulsory trades does – governments should focus its oversight activities on quality of work and safety standards. It found that provinces that have imposed tight restrictions on “entry” into the trades were found to have 44 percent fewer workers in the trades than those without a compulsory approach.
At a time when we desperately need more construction workers, the NDP and their building trades union supporters want to cut tens of thousands of people out of the workforce by imposing rules that would make it more difficult to work in construction.
The bottom line is that if improving completion rates is the real public policy objective of the Horgan government, then the focus should be on the real-world training needs of workers in the construction industry.
These needs begin with increasing the number of training spaces at post-secondary institutions; providing additional financial support for students through the tax system; increasing the role and scope of the Youth Train-in-Trades programs in high schools; and, supporting post-secondary institutions and employer efforts to provide more flexibility in training delivery.
Today’s construction workforce wants flexible and relevant training for today’s world of work, and the opportunity to shape their own career pathways aligned with their interests and aspirations. Returning to 1990s-style compulsory trades runs counter to this approach.
Compulsory trades are, in fact, like the building trades union-only hiring policy: an outdated, obsolete relic of an era long gone.