BC NDP Misses Opportunity with Community Benefits Model
Deal signed with AIRCC designed to create labour monopoly on public infrastructure projects at the expense of 85 percent of BC construction workers
Burnaby, BC—The BC NDP held a media conference at the BCIT Burnaby campus today to announce the deal they have negotiated with the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council (AIRCC), a conglomerate of American-based trade unions, granting some of the Building Trades Unions (BTU) exclusive access to major public infrastructure projects.
The impact of the decision could have serious ramifications for the construction industry, since over 85 percent of the province’s construction workers are not members of the BTU.
“The BC government missed an opportunity to create an inclusive community benefits model for all British Columbians,” says Wayne Prins, CLAC executive director. “Community benefits are not, and should not, be contingent upon a labour monopoly.”
CLAC and its members are supportive of community benefits programs, frequently launching and participating in innovative training-to-employment initiatives in partnership with local communities throughout the province. But, although details are limited at present, the union is concerned that the deal with the AIRCC contains hidden and unnecessary restrictions.
“British Columbians should be extremely wary of any effort to allow a select few unions to determine who has the right to access work on public projects,” says Prins. “Community benefits agreements should protect an employee’s right to unionize freely; preserve fair and open tendering; keep public projects open to the public; and maximize opportunities for Indigenous peoples, women, youth, and apprentices.”
However, the NDP’s deal with the AIRCC appears to mirror that of the Vancouver Island Highway project, which would create unnecessary barriers to employment by limiting access to members of the American-based BTU affiliates, in spite of the fact that the vast majority of construction workers in British Columbia are either represented by independent unions or are nonunionized.
“The BC government should respect the right of workers to choose their union,” says Dawn Rebelo, equipment operator and member of CLAC Local 68. “My coworkers and I have chosen a more progressive model, and the government shouldn’t force us to take steps backward.”
CLAC contends that there appears to be a clear nexus between campaign donations and the NDP’s deal with the AIRCC.
“Premier Horgan campaigned on the promise to govern for all British Columbians, but this deal is designed to benefit American trade unions, creating a labour monopoly at the expense of 85 percent of BC construction workers,” says Ryan Bruce, CLAC BC director of government and public relations.
Few should be surprised. During the March 8 announcement regarding the construction labour model for the Puttallo Bridge project, Premier John Horgan cited the project as the perfect opening to guarantee work for the Building Trade Union affiliates, who are key NDP donors.
“Community benefits should not have strings attached,” says Bruce. “We are very disappointed with the government’s narrow and restrictive labour model.”