A new Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) initiative is calling out the British Columbia NDP government for what the association views as exclusionary practices.
The PCA recently introduced its “Money Well Wasted” campaign, which claims the B.C. government’s community benefits agreement (CBA) framework will waste millions of taxpayers’ money by restricting public infrastructure projects to a number of eligible unions.
“Since the original announcement by the B.C. government of the CBA framework, PCA has been trying to adequately understand its intention and purpose,” said PCA president Paul de Jong.
“While we have no initial objection to bolstering apprenticeships and creating jobs for underrepresented groups such as women and Indigenous people, we have grave concerns with the remaining details of the CBA framework.”
A PCA release states the association is calling on the provincial government to strike down the new infrastructure rules that “force 85 per cent of the province’s construction workers (who’ve chosen not to become members of the Building Trades Unions) to join and pay dues to the BTUs, in order to work on public projects.
The thing used for its justification is one of its worst flaws
— Paul de Jong
Progressive Contractors Association of Canada
“Stifling a free market system and encouraging a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach raises construction costs,” the release said.
The campaign, de Jong said, is PCA’s way of focusing on the viewpoint of the contractors in their organization.
“We want to make sure that the marketplace, industry and taxpaying voters understand this decision puts literally billions of dollars at stake,” he said.
“This policy will dramatically increase the cost of projects and the NDP has an obligation as the government to put in a competitive procurement regime that creates opportunity for firms and workers. It doesn’t drive prices to the bottom, it just puts them in a competitive framework.”
De Jong said one of his concerns regarding the CBA framework is that despite claims it sets out to hire more apprentices, Indigenous people, women and underrepresented groups, the agreement does not set clear goals.
“The thing used for its justification is one of its worst flaws. At the end of the project there’s no indication you will have more women, apprentices or Indigenous people because there are no goals set. Why pay for a CBA that has no teeth?” de Jong said.
De Jong stressed his association is not opposed to trade unions and that they have a place and serve a purpose within the construction industry.
“The goal of Money Well Wasted is not to denigrate trade unions or workers, it’s simply to cast a light for citizens and the construction industry on what this CBA actually intends to do, and to better equip B.C. residents to modify or preferably quash this CBA,” he said.
“Write to MLAs and the premier and tell them the new rules are wrong and should be scrapped.”
In a previous statement to the Journal of Commerce, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said the “government stands behind the principles of the Community Benefits Agreement to deliver good paying jobs, better training and apprenticeships and more trades opportunities for Indigenous people, women and youth around the province.
“Under the CBA approach, all contractors can bid on projects, union or non-union. Although workers must join a union while they work on the project (as is the case with all unionized worksites in B.C.), they do not need to be unionized before or after working on the project. With CBAs, wages are locked in for the duration of the project and no strikes or lockouts can take place. These predictable labour costs help ensure projects are completed on time and on budget,” the ministry added.
The PCA has also raised concerns that CBAs may be used in Alberta after Premier Rachel Notley indicated she favoured that approach in a recent speech to the Building Trades of Alberta conference in Jasper, Alta.