B.C. Supreme Court dismisses CBA legal challenge

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The B.C. Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to the provincial government’s community benefit agreements (CBA) framework initiated by a coalition opposed to the policy. The court ruled that the applicants’ submissions with respect to union membership requirements under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms did not belong before the court.

“We are disappointed that the government waited almost seven months to seek clarification to the original ruling, thereby creating an undue delay in the proceedings,” said Fiona Famulak, VRCA president. “On the basis that the merits of the case have not yet been heard, we will be appealing to have our case heard by the Court as quickly as possible.”

A coalition of the province’s largest construction associations and progressive unions argue that the NDP government’s labour framework for building public infrastructure projects violates the rights of 85 per cent of B.C.’s construction workforce.

The legal challenge was brought forward by the progressive unions of CWU and CLAC, along with four construction associations – PCA, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA), the Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA) and the British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA). The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and several construction companies, professionals and workers are also involved in trying to halt restrictive labour policies in B.C.’s construction industry.

“What happened is the BC Supreme Court has, for the second time, told the Christian Labour Association, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association and others that their criticisms of CBAs do not rise to the level of issues heard by the court,” said Andrew Mercier, executive director of the BC Building Trades.

Mercier added that charter arguments in the case had already been struck from the application last July. The court ruled at that time that the BC Labour Relations Board was the proper forum for charter arguments.

According to the BC Building Trades, higher courts have repeatedly dismissed charter challenges to similar labour agreements in place across Canada.

The Merit Contractors Association, which is affiliated to the ICBA through Merit Canada, challenged Manitoba Hydro’s union membership policy in 2012. The case was dismissed by the Queen’s Bench of Manitoba and again on appeal.

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