VANCOUVER – The B.C. Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to the provincial government’s community benefit agreements (CBA) framework initiated by a coalition opposed to the policy.
A coalition made up of the British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA), the Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA), the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA), the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) the Canada West Union and CLAC said in a PCA release that the framework “violates the rights of 85 per cent of B.C.’s construction workforce and should be declared unconstitutional.”
Under the B.C. government’s CBA framework, government infrastructure projects such as the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge and work on the planned Broadway Skytrain Extension would go through the BC Infrastructure Benefits Inc. crown corporation using only union workers. The coalition would like to see the union requirement removed from both current and future government projects.
BC Building Trades executive director Andrew Mercier praised the B.C. Supreme Court decision.
“What happened today is the BC Supreme Court has, for the second time, told the Christian Labour Association, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association and others that their criticisms of CBAs do not rise to the level of issues heard by the Court,” Mercier said.
Members of the coalition voiced their opposition to the CBA framework previous to the court decision.
“The Horgan government will stop at nothing to pay back its building trades union supporters, even at the expense of shutting 85 percent of the province’s construction workers out of taxpayer-funded projects. This kind of blatant favouritism is offensive and costs workers and construction companies a fair shot at work on taxpayer-funded projects,” ICBA president Chris Gardner said.
“The Horgan government seems to have no problem violating workers’ basic rights, including freedom of association. No government should be allowed to dictate which union workers should belong to,” CLAC B.C. manager of government relations Ryan Bruce said.
“As an association that represents both union and open-shop companies, we know this government policy not only shuts out the majority of the construction workforce but also offloads significant risk to contractors. This, together with the bureaucracy that’s been created to administer this antiquated labour model, unnecessarily inflates the cost of public projects by tens of millions of dollars that ultimately will be paid for by B.C.’s taxpayers,” VRCA president Fiona Famulak added.
The coalition submitted a petition in 2018 claiming the ministry of transportation was overstepping its authority by entering into agreements concerning public works construction, while the ministry argued the matter should be arbitrated by the Labour Relations Board and not the courts. On July 23, 2019 the B.C. Supreme Court decided the matter would be heard by the court rather than by the board.
The Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council of British Columbia (AIRCC) represents the 19 unions involved in the CBA framework and is a respondent to the challenge as are the Attorney General of B.C. and the provincial ministry of transportation and infrastructure.