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Legal challenge of B.C.’s labour model proceeds

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The legal challenge of the B.C. NDP’s Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) model will proceed to the B.C. Supreme Court. The decision is positive news for the petitioners, which include a broad range of industry stakeholders.

“We’re delighted that our concerns have been taken seriously enough to be heard by the province’s highest court,” said Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada. “Forcing 85 per cent of B.C.’s construction workforce to join a union of the government’s choice is not only unconstitutional, it’s just plain wrong.”

It was one year ago when the Horgan government announced new infrastructure rules that require the province’s construction workers to join the Building Trades Unions (BTUs) in order to work on public projects.

In August 2018, a coalition of British Columbia’s largest construction associations and progressive unions representing the vast majority of the province’s construction workforce launched a legal challenge aimed at halting the restrictive labour framework embedded within the CBA on the basis that it robs workers of their basic Charter rights.

“We’re now full-speed ahead on our legal challenge of this unfair, regressive, union-only monopoly,” said Chris Gardner, ICBA president. “We look forward to making our case against this sweetheart deal the NDP has handed their best supporters. The choice of which union to join, if any, should be made by the workers through a secret ballot, and should not be forced by government.”

Proponents argue that the BTUs constitute just 15 per cent of B.C.’s construction workforce and the CBA rules are driving up public infrastructure costs by millions of dollars.

So far, the provincial government has named three projects that will be built under the CBA: the Pattullo Bridge replacement project, the Broadway Subway Line and the widening of the Trans-Canada Highway from Kamloops to Alberta.

“The government’s CBA not only violates workers’ rights, it creates more red tape and bureaucracy that increases construction costs by tens of millions of dollars for B.C. taxpayers, as evidenced by what recently transpired on the Highway No. 1 at Illecillewaet project,” said Fiona Famulak, VRCA president.

The Highway No.1 at Illecillewaet project is the first construction contract awarded under the CBA and will see B.C. taxpayers paying more than two times the $35-million project budget first announced four years ago.

According to VRCA, the now $85.2-million project will cost B.C. taxpayers $22.3 million more than the provincial government estimated when the project was tendered in February 2019. Despite the increases, the federal government’s contribution remains at $15.5 million, leaving B.C. taxpayers to fund the difference.

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