Hundreds of billions worth of construction projects are on the drawing board in B.C. As a result, most construction contractors geared up for even more work this year, despite an already intense pace. This will keep the industry’s GDP and employment contributions growing at the same pace as the provincial economy.
Jordan and Maclean discuss the NDP Government’s school reopening announcement (and subsequent BCTF friction), John Horgan’s slump, a BC Liberal polling bump, and the resignation of Tracy Redies. Plus a dash of Star Trek 🖖
Kerry and Jordan chat about ICBA’s ongoing series of site visits with members and two important upcoming training webinars:
1. The HR Series: Meaningful Performance & Development Conversations (Live Online Training) – Friday, July 24
2. Writing Effective Emails – Wednesday, Aug. 5
ICBA joined 20 other employer associations this week in a letter to BC Minister of Labour Harry Bains, outlining the business community’s strong objections to a series of changes the NDP Government is planning for WSBC (as set out in legislation proposed last week in Bill 23). It is clearly the wrong time to impose more costs, complexity, and confusion on businesses struggling to survive the worst health and economic crisis in 100 years.
Some of the concerns about Bill 23 raised in the letter:
- The changes will destabilize WorkSafeBC by adding considerable costs to the workers’ compensation system. Far from being “modest and measured”, core precepts that kept WSBC financially stable over the last two decades are now being unwound.
- It adds more uncertainty to the Covid-19 recovery and long-term costs to WSBC which is paid by employer premiums. These added costs will impact businesses of all size, and their ability to re-start, re-hire, and consider new investment in the province. Ultimately, additional costs through Bill 23 will harm people from all walks of life who have lost, or are on the brink of losing, their livelihoods.
- There was no consultation on Bill 23 measures calling into question the sincerity of the NDP Government’s commitment to listen to British Columbians, particularly small, medium and large employers.
- The Government of Alberta recently “doubled down” on their efforts to restore Alberta’s competitive advantage by reducing its corporate tax rate to 8 percent versus British Columbia’s 12 percent. Instead of “holding the line” on further costs and red tape, the NDP Government is “doubling down” on increasing fixed and variable business costs and adding uncertainty to BC’s investment climate.
- Bill 23 doesn’t consider the significant challenges that employers face as they struggle to cope with the economic fallout from COVID-19. Our province is not back to “normal”. However, Bill 23 assumes everything is fine with BC’s economy.
- Bill 23 signals to the WSBC Board of Directors the NDP Government’s support for a COVID-19 (Schedule 1) presumption (ie. if a worker claims to have contracted Covid-19 in the workplace, the claim is automatically accepted) by removing a 90-day waiting period for such a change to come into force. This effectively will make a WSBC COVID-19 presumption immediately applicable once the Board makes a decision.
Read the full letter HERE.
There’s nothing more Canadian than saying sorry.
Maclean and Jordan discuss the Summer of Apologies, plus how to deal with social conservativism, what constitutes a “union,” and why some need to classify unions as…not unions, and yes, Jordan’s Johnny Cash tribute look.
Some reports on ICBA’s advocacy efforts last week:
Vancouver (July 16, 2020) – The NDP government’s labour rules for building key public projects infringe on the Charter rights of the vast majority of B.C.’s construction workers and are driving public infrastructure costs way up, according to a coalition of B.C.’s largest construction associations and progressive unions. Delays and cost overruns on the first projects built using B.C.’s Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) are costing taxpayers an extra $384 million.
The coalition resumes its legal challenge today as it asks the B.C. Court of Appeal to reverse a lower court decision that referred part of the case to the Labour Relations Board, and to return the entire case to the B.C. Supreme Court to be adjudicated on its merits.
The coalition’s case has been, and will continue to be, about Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena ’s decision – her statutory discretion – to impose an unfair and discriminatory policy on the construction industry. It is not challenging the collective agreement embedded in the CBA or any other issue within the jurisdiction of the LRB.
“Right now, government and industry should be working together to rebuild the economy,” said Chris Gardner, President of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association. “That’s a lot harder to do when public infrastructure dollars are not going anywhere near as far as they should.”
Today, the coalition tallied the known public costs of the Horgan government’s skewed CBA, which is now $384 million and counting. That’s the equivalent of as many as five new schools or one new hospital, or 3,000 affordable housing units.
“The government’s so-called CBA is unfair, unethical and completely out of step with the times,” said Paul de Jong, President of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA). “As the pandemic drives the province further into debt, this government should be working to stretch public infrastructure dollars, not waste them.”
The coalition argues that the NDP government’sCBA policy, devised for the sole purpose of benefitting its BTU cronies, violates the rights of 85 percent of B.C.’s construction workforce.
“We believe this government knew full well that it was violating workers’ basic rights, including freedom of association, when it inflicted its CBA on our industry,” said Ryan Bruce, B.C. Manager of Government Relations for CLAC, which represents over 11,000 workers in B.C., many of whom would be forced to change their union membership in order to work on key public infrastructure projects. “No government should have the authority to dictate which union workers belong to.”
“If this government truly wants to champion workers and worker rights, then its CBA should be scrapped,” said Ken Baerg, CWU Director of Labour Relations, one of the progressive unions challenging the provincial government’s Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). “It’s time to come up with an arrangement that’s fair for all workers, companies and British Columbians.”
“If the NDP government continues to impose its CBA on public infrastructure projects, construction costs will spiral upwards and, ultimately, leave government with four options: to build fewer projects; reduce the scope of projects; increase taxes to pay for the projects; or incur debt to build them,” said Fiona Famulak, President of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association. “At the end of the day, B.C.’s taxpayers will bear the brunt.”
The B.C. Court of Appeal will hear the coalition’s arguments today and tomorrow.
“As we face the future of COVID-19 no one knows for certain what will happen. All we can do is control what is within our ability to control, and this spending on the CBA is entirely optional, it doesn’t add value” says Chris Atchison, BC Construction Association President. “Such wasteful spending at a time when the Minister of Finance is repeatedly stating the need to “spend every cent wisely” is a blatant contradiction between words and actions. British Columbians deserve better.”
For further details on B.C.’s spiralling CBA costs, go to: www.moneywellwasted.ca
Four construction associations (the British Columbia Construction Association, the Vancouver Regional Construction Association, the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA), the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA)) and two progressive unions (Canada West Union and CLAC) representing 85% of B.C.’s construction workforce, have joined the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and several construction companies, professionals and workers in launching the lawsuit aimed at halting restrictive labour policies in B.C.’s construction industry.
The following op-ed first ran in The Vancouver Sun on July 16, 2020. It was co-written by:
- Chris Gardner, President, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association;
- Paul de Jong, President, Progressive Contractors Association of Canada;
- Chris Atchison, President, B.C. Construction Association;
- Fiona Famulak, President, Vancouver Regional Construction Association;
- Ryan Bruce, B.C. Manager, Government Relations, CLAC;
- Ken Baerg, Director of Labour Relations, Canada West Construction Union
It has been two years since Premier John Horgan announced that key public infrastructure would be built using his government’s Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), shutting out 85 per cent of British Columbia’s construction workforce from working on certain publicly funded projects.
As we mark the unceremonious anniversary, the construction industry partners that responded to the premier’s announcement by launching a legal challenge of the CBA, will be in court fighting for the right to have the B.C. Supreme Court consider whether the transportation and infrastructure minister acted properly when she imposed the CBA on the industry.
The legal challenge stalled last February when the court referred parts of our case to B.C.’s Labour Relations Board (LRB). On July 16, we will be asking the Court of Appeal to reverse that decision and return the entire case to the B.C. Supreme Court to be adjudicated on its merits.
Our case has been, and will continue to be, about the minister’s decision – her statutory discretion – to implement an unfair and discriminatory policy that infringes on the Charter rights of workers. We are not challenging the collective agreement embedded in the CBA or any other issue within the jurisdiction of the LRB.
The case against building public infrastructure using B.C.’s CBA is not solely a legal one.
For two years, we have warned about the cost implications of using this skewed version of a CBA, one that believes unionized labour is needed to create new opportunities for various under-represented groups when industry has been hiring and training those same groups for decades.
If the NDP government continues to impose its CBA on public infrastructure projects, construction costs will spiral upwards and, ultimately, leave government with four options: to build fewer projects; reduce the scope of projects; increase taxes to pay for the projects; or incur debt to build them. At the end of the day, B.C.’s taxpayers will bear the brunt.
The provincial government announced the Pattullo Bridge replacement, the Broadway Subway Line and multiple projects to widen the Trans Canada Highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border will all be built using labour supplied under the CBA.
Now, as the first CBA projects get underway, our predictions are becoming a sad reality for taxpayers and the men and women working in construction who are excluded from these projects. B.C.’s CBA is ratcheting up construction budgets for these projects and leading the provincial government to change the budget and/or scope of some projects to keep budgets in check.
Just look at the facts. The government itself estimates the CBA will add $100 million to the cost of the Pattullo Bridge. Meantime, the combined budget for the TransCanada Highway 1 widening projects along the Illecillewaet River, in Kicking Horse Canyon and near both Chase and Salmon Arm has increased by 30 per cent from $874.8 million to $1.13 billion. It begs the question: What do these cost increases signal for the $2.83-billion Broadway Subway Line?
How much of the increase is due to the CBA? Despite our requests for details, the provincial government has not released those numbers. What we do know, however, is that they created a new Crown Corporation – BC Infrastructure Benefits Inc. – at a cost of tens of millions of dollars to administer all CBA-projects.
Just as troubling, the B.C. government has quietly reduced the scope of some of the projects. When first announced, the four-laning projects near Chase and Salmon Arm both had three segments. Today, the project websites list only two segments for each community.
The outcome of all of this? B.C. taxpayers are paying more for less.
The need to abandon B.C.’s skewed CBA is more important than ever as we navigate COVID-19. We are regularly reminded by government and public health officials that we are all in this together, that we each have a role to play to stem the spread of the virus and contribute to the province’s economic recovery.
It stands to reason, therefore, that as we work to rebuild our economy, all workers should have a fair chance to work on government funded projects, not just those who are members of the 19 trades unions that are signatories to the government’s CBA. And British Columbia’s taxpayers should know they are getting the best value for their hard-earned tax dollars.
Maclean and Jordan try and regroup from the province’s stunning financial update ($12.5 Billion deficit?!?), look for ways to help the economy recover, and talk about how red tape is slowing the NDP from hitting their housing targets.