How B.C.'s new union-only construction rules will actually work [Excerpt]
The B.C. government’s announcement this week of new union-only labour rules on building projects sparked a deluge of rhetoric from both advocates and opponents of the change. Here’s how it will actually work:
Q: Do the new rules really force people to join a union to work on the Pattullo Bridge or Kamloops to Alberta highway projects?
A: Yes. All workers on the site will be required to join a union within 30 days, and pay dues. They won’t be able to choose the union, either. The NDP government has a select group under a community benefit agreement with the “Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council” — a new organization that acts on behalf of 19 trades unions. If a worker belongs to a non-affiliated union, which isn’t part of the B.C. Building Trades or on that group of 19, they’ll have to register with one of the government-approved unions.
Q: The B.C. Building Trades says “all contractors are welcome to bid on the project” whether union or not. Is this true?
A: That statement, while technically correct, is misleading. Any company — union or non-union — can bid on the contracts. But in reality, whoever wins must allow their employees to join a union. In the case of the Vancouver Island Highway Project in the 1990s, which used the same union-only labour model, 23 of the 49 prime contracts went to non-union contractors.
Q: Will the changes cause projects to cost more?
A: The government acknowledged when the near-identical model was used in the 1990s that the union-only provisions do cost more. But they argued there are corresponding savings, as well as that the model provides more certainty, set costs, fixed wages, apprentice spots, a no-strike promise and other social benefits. “The cost of making sure we’re training the next generation of workers is one I think British Columbians understand,” Horgan said.
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