B.C. Premier John Horgan announced July 16, 2018 that key infrastructure projects would be built under a new Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), which includes quotas for apprentices, preferential hiring of women and Indigenous workers, and a stipulation that workers on the projects must be unionized. The first two projects covered by the agreement are the Pattullo Bridge replacement project and widening of the Trans-Canada Highway from Kamloops to Alberta.
Government ministers have since said the Pattullo Bridge and Trans-Canada Highway projects may not be the only projects covered by the CBA.
VRCA does not support this CBA because of the way it’s been negotiated and its potential impact on industry.
There has been a lack of full industry consultation. The CBA is an agreement between the provincial government and select trade unions. Only government and those unions are signatories to the agreement.
The CBA model is prescriptive in that it requires all individuals working under the CBA to join the affiliated unions immediately (and to have their union membership paperwork complete within 30 days of working on the project), and all companies working on CBA projects to secure their labour force from the new crown corporation, BC Infrastructure Benefits Inc.
We believe community benefits agreements can be a useful public policy tool, provided there is adequate industry engagement prior to their roll-out. This CBA did not include adequate industry engagement.
UPDATE: The $2.83 billion Broadway Subway project, which will add 5.7 kilometres and six stations to the Millennium Line between VCC-Clark and Arbutus Street in Vancouver, will be built as a CBA project, the provincial government announced Feb. 15, 2019.
Ongoing, active advocacy.
VRCA is part of a coalition of construction associations, construction companies, construction workers, progressive unions and business associations that has filed a petition in the Supreme Court of B.C. challenging the provincial government’s labour framework for building key infrastructure projects.
The coalition involved in the legal challenge includes: VRCA, The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, British Columbia Construction Association, the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, the Christian Labour Association of Canada, Canada West Construction Union, the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Eagle West Crane & Rigging, Jacob Bros. Construction, LMS Reinforcing Steel Group, Morgan Construction and Environmental and Tybo Contracting, along with six construction professionals: Forrest Berry; Brendon Froude; David Fuoco; Thomas MacDonald; Dawn Rebelo; and, Richard Williams.
The British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) and the four regional construction associations are promoting a letter-writing campaign aimed at members of the B.C. legislature. The campaign includes letter templates to help trades people and employers in B.C.’s construction industry express their concern about the CBA. Send a letter.
- On July 16, the construction industry partners that launched the legal challenge of the CBA published an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun explaining why they are continuing to challenge the CBA. The op-ed ran on the second anniversary of Premier John Horgan’s announcement that that key public infrastructure would be built using the CBA. It was also the first of two days set aside by the B.C. Court of Appeal to hear the industry partner’s appeal of the B.C. Supreme Court February 2020 decision that referred parts of the legal challenge to B.C.’s Labour Relations Board (LRB). Read more.
- VRCA and its industry partners were excited to be in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on Feb. 3 for the first day of five scheduled to hear the construction industry’s challenge of B.C.’s Community Benefits Agreement. That excitement quickly turned to disappointment after the provincial government sought and received clarification to the judge’s ruling of July 2019, stalling the coalition’s judicial application. Read the news releases issued before the hearing began, and after the judge clarified his earlier ruling.
- VRCA joined industry representatives and progressive labour unions at the B.C. legislature on November 19 to demand the provincial government stop the roll-out of its Community Benefits Agreement. Read the news release. Media coverage:
- CBC News British Columbia, Workers, contractors gather at B.C. legislature to protest ‘unfair’ deals
- The Province, Vaughn Palmer: Project overruns, not protests, might shake B.C. NDP faith in community benefits agreements
- Victoria News, Bidders down, costs up for Highway 1, B.C. independent contractors say
- Global News, Construction workers call on B.C. government to scrap the Community Benefits Agreement
- The Indo-Canadian Voice, BC Liberals support workers and contractors snubbed by Horgan’s CBA scheme
- VRCA responded to Transportation Minister Claire Trevena’s July 17 letter and, at the minister’s recommendation, has written to Jennifer Fraser, director of the Trans-Canada Highway Program and Irene Kerr, president and CEO of BC Infrastructure Benefits Inc. requesting details about the 143 per cent increase in project budget for the Highway 1 at Illecillewaet project and the financial impact of the Community Benefits Agreement on the project budget. Read the letters to Minister Trevena, Ms. Fraser and Ms. Kerr.
- The B.C. Supreme Court ruled on July 23 that VRCA and its various industry partners can proceed with their judicial review application challenging the “Building Trades Only Requirement” on public infrastructure projects, including the Pattullo Bridge replacement project. Read the VRCA news release, and statements from the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, BC Construction Association, Progressive Contractors Association, Christian Labour Association of Canada, and Canada West Construction Union. Read Justice Christopher Giaschi’s Reasons for Judgement.
- VRCA received a letter from B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena in response to the Association’s May 25, 2019 letter to Premier John Horgan regarding the budgeting process for the Highway 1 at Illecillewaet project and other infrastructure projects in B.C. Read Minister Trevena’s letter.
- VRCA hosted the first of its Infrastructure Series on July 15 featuring Partnerships BC and BC Infrastructure Benefits Inc. (BCIB). Members can access the presentation materials and questions and answers (Q&A) exchanged during and after the event as follows;
- VRCA calls on the B.C. government to clarify the extent to which the Community Benefits Agreement contributed to the 143 per cent increase in overall project budget for the first project tendered under the project labour framework embedded within the CBA. In addition to asking for specific details of the reasons for the increase, it is calling on government to review and update its budgets for key infrastructure projects to ensure the numbers reflect the rising cost of doing business in British Columbia. Read the letter to Premier John Horgan. Read the news release.
- Partnerships BC hosted a business to business networking session in New Westminster on March 15 for local contractors, suppliers and businesses to meet the three pre-qualified bidding teams vying for the Pattullo Bridge project. Representatives from BC Infrastructure Benefits Inc. (BCIB), the newly created crown corporation that will serve as the employer for all projects built using the labour framework embedded in B.C.’s Community Benefit Agreement, was on hand to provide information and answer questions. VRCA actively promoted and attended the event.
- The coalition of construction associations, construction companies, construction workers, progressive unions and business associations challenging the NDP government’s labour framework for building key infrastructure projects in B.C. was in B.C. Supreme Court Feb. 27 – March 1 to begin legal proceedings. On Feb. 27, the coalition issued a news release and held a news conference, garnering coverage from a number of media outlets, including CTV Vancouver, The Vancouver Sun, and Black Press newspapers.
- Vancouver Sun political columnist Vaughn Palmer published a column Feb. 27 calling out the increased cost of construction that will result if the provincial government insists on building key infrastructure projects in B.C. using the labour framework it embedded in B.C.’s Community Benefits Agreement. Read Vaughn Palmer’s column.
- VRCA president Fiona Famulak authored an op-ed in The Province on Feb. 24 regarding the Project Labour Agreement embedded within B.C.’s Community Benefits Agreement. Read Fiona Famulak’s op-ed.
- The Broadway Subway Project, which will will add 5.7 kilometres and six stations to the Millennium Line between VCC-Clark and Arbutus Street, will be built using the labour framework embedded in B.C.’s Community Benefits Agreement, the provincial government announced Feb. 15. Read more.
- BC Construction Association President Chris Atchison moderated a panel discussion on B.C.’s Community Benefits Agreement at BUILDEX Vancouver on Feb. 14. The Journal of Commerce and Construction Business reported on the panel discussion.
- VRCA and its partners in the coalition of construction associations, contractors, tradespeople and progressive unions challenging the B.C. government’s labour framework for building key infrastructure projects spoke out as the government and B.C. Building Trades unions held a convention in Vancouver celebrating the introduction of preferential Project Labour Agreements to B.C. The coalition argues that these agreements contravene the rights and freedoms of the majority of B.C.’s construction workforce. Read the news release.
- During a Dec. 13 meeting about Canadian tariffs and safeguards on imported steel with the Hon. Bruce Ralston, B.C.’s minister of jobs, trade and technology, Minister Raltson asked VRCA’s delegation about the association opposition to the Community Benefits Agreement. Minister Ralston expressed interest in scheduling a future meeting to further explore VRCA’s concern with the CBA. Read VRCA’s follow-up letter to the minister.
- During the Oct. 17 Division meeting, members were told there are many questions about the Community Benefits Agreement that can’t be answered by reading the agreement itself. Based on member feedback, VRCA compiled a list of these questions and sent them to the BCCA to raise at its meeting with BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB) on Oct. 29. Following this meeting, BCCA assembled and posted answers to the questions online Nov. 8. The compiled answers have neither been approved nor rejected by BCIB and the provincial government. Read more.
- BCCA hosts a series of four town hall meetings – one for each of the regional construction associations. VRCA’s meeting was September 19.
- BCCA and the four regional construction associations launched a letter-writing campaign aimed at member of the B.C. legislature. The campaign includes letter templates to help trades people and employers in B.C.’s construction industry express their concern about the CBA.
- VRCA joins legal challenge of Building Trades Union-only requirement. VRCA is part of a coalition that filed a petition in the B.C. Supreme Court on August 27 asking that the NDP government’s Building Trades Union-only hiring model for public infrastructure projects be struck down. Read more.
- VRCA President Fiona Famulak signs an op-ed entitled: “It’s time to stand together for B.C.’s construction industry.” The op-ed was published in the Journal of Commerce on August 13. Read more.
- The British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) issued a statement decrying the policy decision behind B.C.’s Community Benefits Agreement. Read more.
- VRCA joined a coalition of business associations and non-affiliated unions in signing an open letter to Premier John Horgan demanding his government abandon its announced Community Benefits Agreement. Read more.
- VRCA issues statement opposing the CBA announced by Premier John Horgan. Read more.