A coalition of British Columbia’s largest construction associations and progressive unions began legal proceedings Feb. 27 in B.C. Supreme Court. The coalition is challenging the new procurement policy imposed by the NDP government on public infrastructure projects under the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).
The NDP government’s labour framework for building public infrastructure projects violates the rights of 85 per cent of B.C.’s construction workforce and should be struck down, according to the coalition.
“Freezing 85 per cent of construction workers out of taxpayer-funded projects is unfair, discriminatory and just plain wrong,” said Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association. “Clearly, the Horgan government will stop at nothing to reward it’s Building Trades union buddies, even if it means skirting the law.”
Currently BTU membership is mandatory in order for workers to build public projects in B.C., even though the BTUs constitute just 15 per cent of the province’s construction workforce.
“The Horgan government is robbing workers of their basic constitutional rights, including freedom of association,” said Ryan Bruce, B.C. Manager of Government Relations for CLAC. “Rather than giving the workers the right to choose whether to belong to a union – and which union belong to – this government has made the decision for them.”
“Being discriminated against based on the union I have chosen violates my rights – and many of my fellow members – and makes us mad,” says Dave Fuoco, a CLAC member with over 40 years experience in the construction industry. “How is it that a government that says they stand up for workers rights is willing to violate our rights?”
According to the coalition, B.C.’s framework for building public infrastructure is costly for workers and the public. The concern is this outdated construction model creates more red tape and bureaucracy, increasing construction costs by tens of millions of dollars for B.C. taxpayers.
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) have joined 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.