The NDP B.C. government has announced sweeping changes to government procurement policy by bringing back restrictive and regressive 1990s-style project labour agreements. This is a radical departure from the fair, open and transparent process that has successfully built our province over much of its history.
In collusion with government, the Building Trades Unions have established the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council of BC that will enter into contracts on behalf of workers. Gone is the right of workers to choose whether or not to join a union and which union to join.
Under John Horgan’s new law, within 30 days of employment on the job site, any non-union worker or a worker from another affiliation is forced to join an NDP-approved union for work specific to the project.
To take away an individual’s hard-earned freedom of choice and association is frankly shocking.
The new policy gives the Building Trades Unions a monopoly on government-funded construction projects, beginning with the $1.4 billion Pattullo Bridge replacement project, followed by some $25.6 billion in other taxpayer-funded projects.
B.C.’s construction industry is diverse, with 85 percent of the nearly 250,000 men and women working in construction choosing to not be affiliated the BC Building Trades Unions, which have at least some $2.5 million to the NDP over the past four elections.
Wages, training opportunities and diversity in the workforce are the same across the board, and are not dependent on whether or not workers are represented by the Building Trades, a progressive union or are non-union.
This Building Trades-only hiring policy puts an end to fair, open and transparent procurement. No matter how a construction company organizes its workforce, every company should have the right to bid and win government work.
John Horgan’s new model also involves government creating a new Crown corporation, BC Infrastructure Benefits Inc. Another layer of bureaucratic red tape is not how we build a better province.
Missing in Horgan’s plan was any reference to best value for taxpayers being one of the criteria that government will use to select contractors to design and build infrastructure. According to a study commissioned by the Vancouver Board of Trade in the 1990s, labour costs under this model increased by almost 40 percent.
With government projects planned over the next three years expected to cost $26.2 billion, Horgan’s framework could add an additional $2.4 billion to $4.8 billion in additional labour costs, according to recent estimates by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. This translates into $1,998 to $3,996 for a family of four. And for the Pattullo Bridge project alone, the CBA approach could result in an additional $130 million to $259 million in extra costs, or an extra $113 to $216 for a B.C. family of four.
This may be an old-fashioned idea, but we strongly believe that one of government’s primary obligations is to ensure that taxpayers are getting the best value for every dollar spent.
John Horgan should abandon this ill-conceived and ill-advised procurement model where workers, construction contractors and taxpayers all lose. B.C. deserves open, transparent bidding.