Sketch of new Pattullo Bridge, which is to be build upstream of the existing 80-year-old span. (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)

Pattullo Bridge project budget unchanged as bids come in

Builders wary about union-only rules, contractor group says

The B.C. NDP government’s second project under union-only public construction rules is receiving bids from general contractors, but the Pattullo Bridge replacement budget has not jumped like the first one did.

The $1.3 billion replacement of the bridge linking Surrey and New Westminster is scheduled to start by the end of 2019 and be completed in 2023. Built north of the existing 80-year-old structure, the new bridge will still have four vehicle lanes, plus pedestrian and bike lanes and a new off-ramp to Highway 17, the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

The new “community benefits agreement” requiring project workers to join one of 19 building trades unions adds seven per cent to the cost, or about $100 million, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said when the requirements were announced.

“There has been no change to the project budget of $1.377 billion,” the ministry said in a statement this week. “The Pattullo Bridge replacement project is currently in the request for proposals stage of procurement, which is confidential and ongoing.”

The first project, four-laning a section of the Trans-Canada Highway near Revelstoke, saw a 35 per cent jump in costs when the contract was awarded in May. The ministry attributed to the increase to “a shortage of skilled trades” that pushed up labour costs, plus increases in steel and asphalt costs.

RELATED: Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada four-laning project

RELATED: Vancouver Island interchange project completion delayed

Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, said some members of his group are considering bids but are reluctant to impose traditional union rules on their workforce. He expects the restrictions to reduce the number of bidders and push up costs beyond the $100 million predicted, as non-union and open-shop companies take a pass.

Going through a union hiring hall means companies lose the ability to choose workers, and efficiencies are also lost, de Jong said.

“A labourer can never do anything that resembles carpentry, a carpenter can never do anything that resembles truck driving,” he said. “They all have to stay in their own jurisdiction, and that adds a lot of money and complication to how you design work.”

Non-union companies can hire direct, and those affiliated with independent unions such as the Christian Labour Association of Canada can hire by name rather than union seniority, allowing them to keep the same team together from one job to the next.

“That’s the secret sauce for a construction company, the power of their workforce asset,” de Jong said.

The NDP government moved the Pattullo Bridge replacement ahead of a proposed replacement for the George Massey tunnel linking Richmond and Delta. The ministry is studying whether a replacement tunnel is a feasible replacement for the congested passage under the Fraser River.

Like the tunnel, the aging Pattullo is vulnerable to a ship strike or moderate earthquake, with narrow lanes and supports that have seen decades of river erosion.

The government says the new public construction rules will result in more local hiring and use of apprentices. The Independent Contractors and Business Association cites statistics from the government’s Industry Training Authority showing three out of four apprentices are sponsored by open-shop companies, not building trades unions that run their own training facilities.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Seth Meyers makes light of Chemainus woman who scared cougar by blasting Metallica

Comedian highlights Gallant’s actions as ‘the kind of story we need right now’

Robert Barron column: It’s nice to know there is still some good out there

reporters and editors can be become pessimistic and jaded

Piano, guitar music wafts through St. Mike’s in ‘From Spanish to Pastiche’

Andrei and Jannie Burdeti combine their talents for a delightful afternoon of music in Chemainus

Andrea Rondeau column: Holiday weekend delivers letters

It occurred to me that this was just giving me a taste of what Santa must go through every year.

Sarah Simpson Column: Kids’ Christmas is going to the dogs

I enjoy long weekends because of the extra family time they offer,… Continue reading

VIDEO: B.C. couple creates three-storey ‘doggie mansion’ for their five pups

Group of seven, who Kylee Ryan has dubbed as the ‘wandering paws,’ have a neat setup in Jade City

MacKinnon powers Avs to 5-4 OT win over Canucks

Vancouver battled back late to pick up single point

Poole’s Land finale: Tofino’s legendary ‘hippie commune’ being dismantled

Series of land-use fines inspire owner Michael Poole to sell the roughly 20-acre property.

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Princeton couple pays for dream vacation with 840,000 grocery store points

It’s easy if you know what you are doing, they say

Chilliwack family’s dog missing after using online pet-sitting service

Frankie the pit bull bolted and hit by a car shortly after drop off through Rover.com

B.C. wildlife experts urge hunters to switch ammo to stop lead poisoning in birds

OWL, in Delta, is currently treating two eagles for lead poisoning

Most Read