VANCOUVER – Andrew Mercier has been announced as the new executive director of the BC Building Trades.
Mercier takes over Dec 2. from Tom Sigurdson, who will continue with the organization in an advisory capacity until March 2020.
“I’ve been active in the unionized construction industry from the legal side for a while, and Tom was going to announce his retirement. BC Building Trades had a robust and competitive selection process and at the end of the day I was selected,” Mercier said.
Mercier is a labour lawyer and graduated from Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law in 2017 and joined Teamsters Local 213 as legal counsel in the same year where he was responsible for grievance arbitration, judicial reviews and labour relations.
Previous to his work with the Teamsters, Mercier began a career in politics in 2011 at 25 years old when he became involved with Adrian Dix’s leadership run with the provincial NDP. He also managed Piotr Majkowski’s federal campaign for the NDP in Langley, B.C. that same year.
Mercier ran as a candidate himself in Langley in 2013 and also ran in 2018 for a seat on Langley City Council.
He stressed his work in politics and labour came from his own and his mother’s personal experience dealing with worker compensation.
“I grew up watching my mother who worked as a nurse deal with back injury her entire life and watched her deal with workers compensation with a claim that went on for 20 years and involved multiple surgeries,” he said. “I became aware of the impact government and politics have on people in a real way. I also injured my own back, had my claim denied, and was fortunate to be a member of the Teamsters who helped me win that claim.”
“From that it was a logical extension to get involved in electoral politics,” Mercier said. “If you have a voice, you have to use it.”
In his new role, Mercier is advocating for the return of compulsory trades, the launch of an independent Labour Code review for the construction sector and the use of the province’s Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) framework for additional public projects.
“The Labour Code works very well with hospitals and the retail sector, but there are all sorts of complexities when you look at timeline-based and project-based industries like construction,” he said.
“There’s just been a review of the Labour Code and this wasn’t part of the review, and I’d like to continue educating the government on the importance and complexity of this (issue),” Mercier added. “Construction is a very complicated sector from a legal and economic perspective, and it’s critical to the health of British Columbia’s economy. If construction is not doing well, the economy is not doing well.”
Mercier also stressed the importance to his organization of bringing back a compulsory trades model in British Columbia.
“We’re the only province without a compulsory trade designation. The benefit is safety as compulsory trades will result in safer worksites as well as a more diverse construction sector and more skilled workers that better reflect our population,” he said.
Mercier also said the ongoing opioid crisis remains a key issue for both industry and labour.
“We need to do more. We, industry and government are doing a lot, but we need to do more,” he said.
Mercier added he had “big shoes to fill” in his new role.
“Tom has been very committed and has done a lot for working people in this province and I look forward to working with him and continuing his work,” he said. “Tom has been effective, the trades have been as well, and the trades are on the right course and right now with a willing partner in the provincial government to work with and we’ll continue to work constructively with them.”