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Building Trades and BC Hydro clash over Site C job fairs

Warren Frey
Building Trades and BC Hydro clash over Site C job fairs

The BC Building Trades and BC Hydro are clashing over the cost and effectiveness of recent Site C job fairs. In an Aug. 3 news release, the BC Building Trades stated BC Hydro spent $42,000 in 2015 and $63,300 in 2016 on Site C job fairs, held in Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Fort Nelson, Fort St. John, Mackenzie, Prince George, Quesnel and Tumbler Ridge.

"There are 40,000 highly skilled and qualified unionized construction workers in B.C., many with decades of experience in dam construction," said Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the BC Building Trades.

"Instead of tapping into this tested source for local skilled labour, BC Hydro chose to launch a promotional roadshow throughout the north."

The BC Building Trades made a Freedom of Information request to obtain the amounts spent on the job fairs, the release stated.

BC Hydro countered the BC Building Trades release, stating that with the downturn in other sectors of the economy, it is important to spread awareness of job opportunities in the region and to promote those jobs to local workers.

"Jobs fairs are best practice for large project delivery. That’s why we successfully held job fairs for the John Hart Project and why we continued the practice for Site C," BC Hydro spokesperson Simi Heer said.

"In addition to Site C contractors, the job fairs also had the participation of training and employment agencies, including the Industry Training Authority, Northern Lights College and employment agencies in the region."

But Sigurdson insists not enough is being done to hire locally. Employment statistics report 1,547 total workers on Site C, with 1,223 of those workers from B.C., and "that leaves hundreds of qualified B.C. workers unemployed," the Building Trades release said.

"It’s insincere to travel to these communities where thousands of people lined up hoping for work and then to draw hundreds of workers from out of the province," said Sigurdson.

It is a priority, Heer insisted, for both it and the province to create jobs for "all British Columbians, including BC Building Trades members.

"This is a massive project and BC Hydro — as a Crown Corporation owned by the people of British Columbia — has an important job to do and that is to provide opportunities for all qualified British Columbians to get jobs on this project, whether they belong to a union or not," Heer said.

The massive Site C project is estimated once up and running to provide 1,100 megawatts of capacity, producing roughly 5,100 gigawatt hours of energy each year, or enough to power the equivalent of 450,000 homes per year, according to the Province of British Columbia.

Site C recently reached the one year mark. See Page 3 for a progress report.

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