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

Guy Barber in front of his jewellery store at 208 Mackenzie Avenue, circa 1915. (Revelstoke Museum and Archives photo 272)
Glimspes of Revelstoke’s past for April 8

Local history as recorded by the newspaper of the time

Downtown Revelstoke. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
LETTER: Finding Common Ground Through COVID-19

‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.’

Alchemy Studio received a ticked from the RCMP on Thursday, April 8, for staying open despite provincial restrictions ordering yoga studios be closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Contributed)
Revelstoke yoga class fined for defying COVID-19 orders

The RCMP were called to the Alchemy Studio on April 8

The Royal’s 1959 visit to Revelstoke. (Photo by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #17)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip visited Revelstoke – twice

The prince died April 9 at the age of 99

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

A second case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Vernon’s BX Elementary School. (Kerry Hutter photo)
Second COVID case confirmed at Okanagan elementary school

Exposure at Vernon’s BX Elementary happened April 6 and 7

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

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

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Highway 97 being converted to four lanes in April 1990. This photo taken in Lake Country. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Photo #14025)
HISTORY: How the old Highway 97 in Lake Country got new name

Pelmewash Parkway recognizes the First Nations history in Lake Country

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Flight with COVID
Another Kelowna flight with COVID-19 exposure

Westjet flight on April 5 from Kelowna to Edmonton

Most Read