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Construction coalition blasts B.C. government CBA policy as it heads to Court of Appeal

Construction coalition blasts B.C. government CBA policy as it heads to Court of Appeal

VANCOUVER — A coalition of British Columbia construction associations is calling out the province’s transportation and infrastructure minister as they take their legal challenge of the NDP government’s community benefits agreement (CBA) policy to the B.C. Court of Appeal.

The coalition is asking the court to reverse a lower court decision that referred part of their case on the government’s labour rules infringing on the charter rights of workers to the Labour Relations Board (LRB) and to return the entire case to B.C. Supreme Court.

In a Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) release, the collation stated its case “has been, and will continue to be, about Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena ’s decision — her statutory discretion — to impose an unfair and discriminatory policy on the construction industry. It is not challenging the collective agreement embedded in the CBA or any other issue within the jurisdiction of the LRB.”

“Right now, government and industry should be working together to rebuild the economy. That’s a lot harder to do when public infrastructure dollars are not going anywhere near as far as they should,” said Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) president Chris Gardner in the statement.

“The government’s so-called CBA is unfair, unethical and completely out of step with the times. As the pandemic drives the province further into debt, this government should be working to stretch public infrastructure dollars, not waste them,” PCA president Paul de Jong added.

The coalition claims the public cost of the CBA is $384 million and rising.

“If the NDP government continues to impose its CBA on public infrastructure projects, construction costs will spiral upwards and, ultimately, leave government with four options: to build fewer projects; reduce the scope of projects; increase taxes to pay for the projects; or incur debt to build them. At the end of the day, B.C.’s taxpayers will bear the brunt,” said Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA) president Fiona Famulak.

“As we face the future of COVID-19 no one knows for certain what will happen. All we can do is control what is within our ability to control, and this spending on the CBA is entirely optional, it doesn’t add value. Such wasteful spending at a time when the minister of finance is repeatedly stating the need to ‘spend every cent wisely’ is a blatant contradiction between words and actions. British Columbians deserve better,” British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) president Chris Atchison said.

The B.C. government has repeatedly stated that CBAs ensure local hiring as well as give underrepresented groups an opportunity to be part of these projects.

The coalition is comprised of the BCCA, VRCA, ICBA, PCA and two unions, CLAC and the Canada West Union as well as the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and as stated in the release “several construction companies, professionals and workers in launching the lawsuit aimed at halting restrictive labour policies in B.C.’s construction industry.”

The B.C. Court of Appeal was slated to hear the coalition’s arguments on July 16 and 17.

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