B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains takes questions about his decision to keep secret-ballot votes for union certification, demanded by the B.C. Green Party, B.C. legislature, Nov. 20, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains takes questions about his decision to keep secret-ballot votes for union certification, demanded by the B.C. Green Party, B.C. legislature, Nov. 20, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Trade union expansion a key goal for B.C. NDP in 2021

Union-only deals may extend to Massey crossing, others

Before the surprise 2020 election, B.C. Premier John Horgan made a point of saying his government’s union-only public construction mandate had been applied only to three large infrastructure projects.

The first project under the new “community benefits agreement,” widening a section of the Trans-Canada Highway near Revelstoke, saw the cost jump 35 per cent. A section of the widening east of Kamloops was then scaled back by half, with the transportation ministry in both cases citing a “hot market” for construction as part of the pressure on costs.

Then-minister Claire Trevena’s estimate for the second designated project, the Pattullo bridge replacement, was pushed up seven per cent by the deal forcing employees to join one of 19 mostly U.S.-based unions, and imposing their rigid “craft lines” on work crews.

The third project is the Broadway subway extension in Vancouver, a tunnel project open to a few specialized international companies. It was awarded last fall to Spanish infrastructure company Acciona in partnership with Ghella of Italy. Horgan says the province is about to release a business case for the long-awaited Massey tunnel replacement, which would likely be the next project to use the new rules.

RELATED: Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada widening project

RELATED: B.C. highway widening reduced, costs still up $61M

The B.C. NDP’s master union agreement runs to 336 pages, with a new B.C. Crown corporation set up to control payroll and union dues, diverting an additional 25 cents per person-hour worked to a new union council and another seven cents to building trade union funds for health and safety. Horgan’s mandate letter to new Transportation Minister Rob Fleming instructs him to continue to apply it “where appropriate,” and to “streamline consultation, tendering and construction of infrastructure projects.”

Mandate letters to Labour Minister Harry Bains and Advanced Education Minister Ann Kang instruct them to “restore the compulsory trades system to improve safety and give more workers a path to apprenticeship completion.” This was a 2017 recommendation from the B.C. Federation of Labour, along with moving to a $15 minimum wage, which B.C. is due to surpass with $15.20 per hour in June of 2021.

In a year-end interview with Black Press, Horgan said the public supports his labour agenda.

“They want to know when we’re spending public dollars that we’re training the next generation of workers,” Horgan said. “We have an aging demographic. We want to encourage people to get into the trades. One way to do that is to give them a clear path to apprenticeships to red seals, and whether you’re a union company or a non-union company, you need to have skilled workers, and community benefit agreements allow us to do that.”

RELATED: B.C. keeps secret ballot for union certifications

Another likely shift in 2021 is the elimination of secret-ballot votes for union certification. Bains was poised to impose that in 2019, going against the recommendation of his own expert panel, but withdrew the amendment to the B.C. Labour Relations Code after then-B.C. Greens leader Andrew Weaver said his party would vote against it and defeat it in the minority legislature.

Horgan’s mandate letter to Bains instructs him only to “ensure every worker has the right to join a union and bargain for fair working conditions.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politicsBest of 2020

Just Posted

An object in motion stays in motion. An object at rest stays at rest. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Sarah Simpson Column: This mother is grinning and bearing it

News broke the other day that, after months in hibernation, Grouse Mountain’s… Continue reading

An online cooking lesson with Ian Blom, the Red Seal Chef from the Ainslie Restaurant, is one of the items on auction in a fundraiser for the Duncan Curling Club and other causes. (Submitted photo)
Online action being held to assist Duncan Curling Club and other causes

Auction, run by the Duncan Rotary Club, closes May 22

Police tape crosses Auchinachie Road at Somenos Road as police investigate an incident Friday at 11:30 a.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
UPDATE: North Cowichan neighbourhood, school evacuated after gardener digs up explosives

Students removed from Ecole Mount Prevost school in an ‘abundance of caution’

The Cowichan Valley Naturalists are offering a look at B.C.’s glass sponge reefs at a presentation on May 18. (Adam Taylor photo)
A&E column: Glass sponge reefs; AGM; and new book

What’s going on in arts and entertainment in the Cowichan Valley

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
MISSING: Salt Spring RCMP find woman’s car, still seek Island resident

Sinikka Gay Elliott is 5’3” with a slim build and dark brown short hair

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Saanich man received almost 10 years in Supreme Court in Courtenay for a shooting incident from 2018. Record file photo
Shooting incident on Island nets almost 10-year sentence

Saanich man was arrested without incident north of Courtenay in 2018

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Most Read