HALIFAX —Developers of large construction projects of $2 billion or more in Nova Scotia, including two proposed liquefied natural gas projects, would be allowed to enter into specific agreements to ensure there are no labour work stoppages or lockouts under legislation introduced Nov. 2.
Amendments to the Construction Projects Labour-Management Relations Act would allow developers of proposed liquefied natural gas projects in Richmond and Guysborough counties the option to enter into such agreements.
Labour Minister Kelly Regan said the intent of the change is to encourage the future development of so-called mega-industrial construction projects in the province.
"The current act is more than 40 years old," said Regan. "The department was asked by industry, and that’s employer and union organizations together, to look at the act and make some revisions."
The legislation would also provide a mechanism through the Labour Board to resolve any issues that arise under the act.
Brad Smith, executive director of Mainland Nova Scotia Building Trades, says unionized building trades believe having a project labour agreement in place is important.
Smith, whose organization represents roughly 11,000 industrial construction workers, said these types of project labour agreements are common across the country and help ensure job stability.
"A lot of our workers on a regular basis work on these types of projects across the country and…we are just trying to do what’s being done in the rest of the country," said Smith.
Paul MacLean, strategic and regulatory affairs adviser for Bear Head LNG Corp., said while the company supports the government’s initiative, it did not spearhead the legislation.
"We have actually been working with the Cape Breton building and construction trades now for the last year or so on achieving an agreement that’s similar," said MacLean. "I think it (the legislation) will help us in terms of finalizing some of those discussions."
He said for projects of the size his company is proposing for Cape Breton’s Strait area, having labour certainty is a key aspect of moving ahead.
"Both to attract in the capital required to achieve that type of project, and provide a level of comfort to shareholders," he said.
MacLean said the company has all of its permits in place to proceed with construction but is currently focusing its efforts on finding natural gas for the facility.
"There is nothing that’s imminent but we are spending quite a bit of time working with natural gas producers to try to move toward an agreement," he said.
Regan said the act doesn’t prevent a developer from working with a non-unionized contractor even when a project agreement is in place.