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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

1914
It happened this week in 1914

May 2 - 8: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the newspapers at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read