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Letter to the Editor: British Columbians can benefit from PLAs, but only when they are truly fair and open

Paul de Jong
Letter to the Editor: British Columbians can benefit from PLAs, but only when they are truly fair and open

To the Editor:

Re: PCA gets pushback on project labour agreements poll, April 13, 2018

It’s not surprising that the Building Trades Unions (BTUs) are so quick to discount all evidence, including a recent Mainstreet poll that shows the public does not support restrictive Project Labour Agreements (PLAs) in British Columbia.

The BTUs, which represent just 17 per cent of B.C.’s construction workforce, have been lobbying hard to monopolize all future infrastructure projects in B.C. through restrictive PLAs.

No wonder. They stand to benefit big time at the expense of everyone else.

Here’s why restrictive PLAs are just plain wrong.

They drive up the cost of construction work.

There’s plenty of research showing that when the number of bidders is restricted through PLAs or outright government favouritism, taxpayer costs go up about 20 to 30 per cent.

Look no further than the troubled Island Highway Project, where restrictive PLAs resulted in massive cost overruns and delays.

Secondly, restrictive PLAs are not fair to the vast majority of B.C.’s skilled workforce that would be blocked from working on public infrastructure projects. Only workers who agreed to pay union dues to the BTUs were allowed to work on the Island Highway Project. Do we really want a repeat?

The reality is that PLAs work best when they are open. This provides all qualified companies and workers — regardless of the labour model they might choose to employ — the opportunity to bid for contracts. This saves tax dollars and maximizes opportunities for all skilled tradespeople in B.C., including underrepresented groups such as women and Indigenous people.

Mr. Tom Sigurdson suggests he has never advocated for any model that restricts companies from projects. We invite him to make it clear that he supports allowing companies to use their own labour and business models to build a project under any PLA that the B.C. government puts forward.

The Pattullo Bridge would be a good place to start.

British Columbians can benefit from PLAs, but only when these agreements are truly fair and open — especially in the fine print.

Paul de Jong
President of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada

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