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OP/ED: Horgan Needs to Rethink Project Labour Agreement Intentions

This op-ed by ICBA President Chris Gardner first appeared in the Vancouver Province on Nov. 12, 2017.

It’s like a bad episode of Let’s Make a Deal. An everyday B.C. taxpayer holds their winnings so far: a red-hot construction job market, fair deals for both workers and owners, a stable labour environment, and billions of dollars in savings.

But Premier John Horgan doesn’t want that deal. He is poking and prodding the poor taxpayer to throw it all away and choose whatever is hidden behind door “number two”.

And if Horgan gets his way, the taxpayer will see the door open, hear that terrible “ZONK!”, and find their tax dollars going up in flames.

In an effort to please his union donors, Horgan recently signaled his government’s intention to return to Project Labour Agreements (PLAs) for public infrastructure construction. This antiquated business model inflates project costs, removes flexibility, causes needless delays, and wastes tax dollars.

It is astonishing that the NDP consider the 1990s Island Highway construction project a model for anything. Yet Horgan wears it as a badge of honour, openly pushing for a return to a time where only companies affiliated with certain unions could win government contracts and where PLAs were used to force workers to join unions.

This kind of overt favoritism costs taxpayers big dollars and limits opportunities for workers. The Island Highway was over budget because it caused costs to escalate and imposed complicated, bureaucratic rules on project managers. A BDO Dunwoody study commissioned by the Vancouver Board of Trade in 1994 estimated the PLA increased highway costs by 38 percent. That’s a lot of tax dollars down the drain for no good reason.

Horgan’s PLA pitch also ignores the fact that the construction industry has changed and improved significantly over the past two decades. The new economy isn’t just found in tech or green industries – it’s arrived in construction too. The construction sector accounts for about 10 percent of B.C.’s economy and is more dynamic, vibrant and flexible than it’s ever been.

Nearly a quarter million men and women work in construction today. Horgan’s friends in the B.C. building trades unions lay claim to about 20 percent of that workforce, down from about a third in the 1990s. Their model has been in decline for the past 30 years for a reason – they have failed to address the needs of construction workers and have refused to respond to changes in the new economy.

The hard, cold truth is that the vast majority of construction workers under age 50 simply do not see value in belonging to building trades affiliated unions. Most of them just want to go to work and earn a living to support their families. They aren’t interested in being pigeon-holed into rigid, restrictive union-defined roles. They want the best people to get the work, not the longest tenured.

Horgan’s vision is to use sweetheart deals to tilt the playing field in favour of 20 per cent of the construction workforce. He has trotted out arguments about PLAs fostering labour relations stability and boosting apprenticeship training. But history shows PLAs do nothing to enhance the quality of work on the job site, do not make the workplace safer, and do not result in better training outcomes. They cost more and deliver less.

No one can remember the last significant construction labour dispute in B.C. for a good reason; we have enjoyed a prolonged period of labour peace. For nearly two decades, construction workers have worked together – more often than not side-by-side regardless of whether they were members of a union, employee association, or non-union – to build our great province.

And contrary to building trade union assertions, more apprenticeship training occurs in an open market construction market than within the closed, constrained confines of PLAs.

With the provincial government planning to spend $50 billion on construction over the next five years, there’s a lot at stake. Employees and companies not affiliated with traditional unions should not be excluded from government construction contracts – it’s simply not fair. Such an approach denies opportunities to hard-working British Columbians based not on their skills, work ethic, or ingenuity, but whether or not they are affiliated with a union bureaucracy.

In the interests of fairness, transparency and value for taxpayers, Horgan and his new government should abandon the return to the antiquated PLA approach to procurement and labour relations. Instead, the government should embrace open and competitive procurement and workplace arrangements for public infrastructure projects that deliver fairness and opportunity for everyone in the construction sector.

British Columbians don’t need what Horgan is hiding behind door “number two” – favoritism and higher costs for taxpayers.

ICBA CAST: Watts on the Roller Coaster

The BC Liberal leadership candidates went to Prince George and it was a real roller coaster for Dianne Watts: she picked up the endorsement of Lucy Sager as Lucy left the race, and then she got whacked by the Prince George Citizen’s Neil Godbout for her performance in Saturday’s debate.
Chris Gardner and Jordan Bateman break down the week that was for Watts, the leadership race, Darryl Plecas, Site C, Kinder Morgan and more on a Friday morning edition of the ICBA Cast:

TRAINING THURSDAY: Managing Employee Terminations (Breakfast)

One of the hardest parts of a supervisor’s job is terminating an employee, and it’s essential that you know to manage this task properly. Human Resources professionals are often the ones dealing with the situation, both with the legal aspects and with the employee him or herself. Our training department wants to give you all the information you need to deal with this challenge at our November 29 breakfast session in Burnaby.

It will explore the following topics:

  • Employee misconduct and “just cause”;
  • The investigation;
  • Without cause: what do I owe?;
  • Employment Standards Act versus Common Law in the construction industry;
  • Human rights and termination decisions;
  • The termination offer/termination meeting.

The Managing Employee Terminations session is presented by a partner at Fasken Martineau’s Labour, Employment and Human Rights Group. Register now at www.icba.ca/training; you’ll also earn 2.5 Group A CPD Points from BC Housing!

Have questions about this or any of our other upcoming courses? Email the training team at training@icba.ca; they would be pleased to assist. We’re already booking new courses for 2018!

NEWS RELEASE: ICBA flag pole project commemorates fallen Canadian soldiers

More than 160 flag poles commemorating Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan have been refurbished thanks to a community partnership between the Royal Canadian Legion, the College of New Caledonia (CNC) and the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA).

The flags were first created by the family of Cpl. Darren Fitzpatrick a few years back, but were in need of a refreshment due to the area they were stored in, according to the Royal Canadian Legion Operational Stress Injury Special Section representative for British Columbia and Yukon Joe Elliott.

“It’s a fantastic job they’ve done,” he said. “The poles have been replaced with aluminum.

“These are going to last for a lifetime.”

Trade students and instructors at CNC have been busy applying their skills to the refurbishment of these poles.

CNC is made stronger through robust partnerships community partnership, according to CNC Vice President Finance and Corporate Services, Tara Szerencsi.

Learning experiences such as these go well beyond the text books, she said.

“Every time these flags fly, students can take pride knowing they lent a hand crafting this legacy project,” Szerencsi said.

These projects also don’t get off the ground without financial support, she added.

With the encouragement of Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond, ICBA rallied funds to be a part of this significant project, according to ICBA Regional Vice President Mike Davis.

In just two short years, ICBA has developed great relationships with CNC that he said he hopes continue on.

“This is one of the most unique projects we have been a part of in the region and we are extremely proud of our partnership with CNC,” Davis said.

Attached to each pole is a wooden plaque commemorating the name and rank of a soldier. Flags flying for British Columbia’s fallen soldiers, including Cpl. Fitzpatrick, will feature a special red base. All 160 flags will line the parade route on Remembrance Day.

“This will be a beautiful tribute to our fallen,” Elliott said.


How are your writing skills? Could they be better? Is your writing effective and focused on what you need to get across to the reader?

Our Writing Effective Letters, Scope Documents and Reports course will teach you to write more effectively. The skills you’ll learn will stick with you throughout your career.

Some of the topics the course covers are:

  • Planning your scope documents;
  • Writing effective letters;
  • Responding to bids and proposals;
  • Structuring your reports and project documentation.

Our training department is offering the course this month in Victoria and Prince George, and in Burnaby in December. Visit www.icba.ca/training for more information on this and any of our other courses. Have you subscribed to our training newsletter? You should; subscribe now at www.icba.ca/trainingnewsletter.

You don’t have to be a member to register for our training workshops, but it will save you money on your fees! Check out www.icba.ca/become-a-member for more information.


Canada is Failing on the Get-to-Yes Challenge

Chris Gardner, President, ICBA
Chris Gardner, President, ICBA

In this Monitor, we highlight the challenges of moving forward with important infrastructure projects. We dig a little deeper into Site C, following the release of the BC Utilities Commission preliminary report.

That report is consistent with the outcome of the independent review panel that studied Site C for 29 months, and concluded it is the best way for B.C. to lock-in a source of clean power for the next 100 years. IBCA representatives spoke in favour of Site C at BCUC public forums in Vancouver, Prince George and Fort St. John.

It was frustrating to see provincial  lawyers in Federal Court in an effort to scuttle the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion just as construction is about to begin. This after a decade of effort, extensive independent review, and federal and provincial approvals (subject to 194 conditions that will be rigorously enforced).

We were also disappointed to see the provincial government decide to review the Massey Tunnel replacement – one of the most dangerous traffic choke points in Canada. Metro Vancouver is growing fast and we need better transit and new roads and bridges. This is not about choosing one project over the other – it’s about the infrastructure investments that will enable businesses to compete and families to get around safely.

Finally, ICBA recently weighed in on the federal government’s proposed changes to small business corporation tax rules – changes that clearly fail the test of fairness. We should be doing every-thing we can to promote and support entrepreneurship, not penalizing the Canadians behind the small businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy.  The family-owned restaurant, the mom-and-pop corner grocer, the boutique hotel, and the local construction contractor are all unfairly targeted by these proposed measures.

Read more

TRAINING THURSDAY: Supervisory and Management Skills Workshop

How are your skills as a supervisor and manager? Could they be better? Our Supervisory and Management Skills workshop, coming to Prince George November 16-17, is for you!

Here’s what you’ll be able to do by the end of this two-day course:

  • Understand the differences between leadership, management and supervision;
  • Identify different leadership styles and approaches;
  • Apply different leadership styles to deal with various situations;
  • Understand motivational theories – Mazlow, Herzberg, MARS;
  • Enhance individual and group performance and engagement;
  • Understand different personality styles and how to communicate appropriately
  • Effectively manage time
  • Understand stress and how to manage it at work
  • Understand substance abuse, recognition and prevention
  • Conduct a successful toolbox talk
  • Appropriately discipline and/or terminate staff
  • Apply various negotiating skills
  • Deal with difficult people, conflict and confrontation
  • Use collaborative decision-making skills
  • Understand a systems approach to management of construction companies

This course is also good for five Gold Seal Credits and 32 Group A CPD Points from BC Housing, upon completion of an online portion following the workshop!

Interested? Check out www.icba.ca/training for more information and to register. We can also bring this course directly to you and your staff; email our training department at training@icba.ca for more information on how to set this up.

We also offer course discounts! Register two or more people for any of our training and you will receive a 10 percent discount on each additional registration.

TRAINING THURSDAY: Incident Investigations

No one wants an incident on their site, but when one does happen do you know how to investigate it? WorkSafeBC’s amendment to Bill 9 includes changes to requirements for employer incident investigations, and our training department wants to help you out!

Our upcoming Incident Investigations course on October 27 in Victoria will help participants understand the principles of incident investigations and the methods of ensuring a proper investigation is completed.

Here’s the course outline:

  • The regulatory requirements to investigate Accidents/Incidents
  • Why are we investigating Accidents/Incidents
  • Who makes a good investigator
  • How to gather evidence and information
  • How to photograph a scene
  • How to measure and diagram a scene
  • How to conduct interviews
  • What is the principle of Root Cause Analysis
  • Developing recommendations for prevention
  • Completing the Incident Report

Interested? Visit www.icba.ca/training for more information and to register. Don’t forget; you don’t have to be a member of ICBA to register for any of our courses!

Have you subscribed to our training newsletter yet? Subscribe now at www.icba.ca/trainingnewsletter.