Premier John Horgan announces a $1.8 million pilot project to get more women into skilled trades at the B.C. legislature, March 8, 2018. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

Premier John Horgan vows union public construction (with video)

Pattullo bridge replacement marks return to ‘project labour agreements’

Premier John Horgan says union-only deals for major construction projects are the way of the future, and the replacement of the 80-year-old Pattullo bridge linking Surrey and New Westminster is the “perfect template” for B.C.

Horgan made the comments Thursday at a B.C. legislature ceremony to announce a pilot project to get more women into skilled construction trades.

“I believe that the Pattullo bridge, $1.37 billion, can and will be done with a project labour agreement, a community benefits arrangement, and we’re working on that right now with our partners and making sure that we get an agreement in place that meets the test for British Columbians,” Horgan said.

A typical project labour agreement establishes a work site as union-only, in exchange for a commitment not to go on strike. Horgan said that’s the model for future major public construction, including commitments by unions to meet a quota of apprentices on each job.

“There are going to be different situations as we go along,” Horgan said. “Hospitals are not bridges. Transit lines are not bridges. So we’re going to adapt agreements as we’re negotiating with contractors, as we’re putting out requests for proposals.”

RELATED: Ironworkers endorse Christy Clark, rap B.C. Fed

The B.C. Liberal government steered the province to open-shop construction, most recently for the early stages of the Site C dam project. Horgan said he has instructed B.C. Hydro to go back to project labour agreements in the future.

“That worked for W.A.C. Bennett, it worked for Bill Bennett and I believe it will work for me,” Horgan said. “I look back now on the projects that were built without community benefits agreements by the previous government, and I’m reminded that the Port Mann bridge was over budget. The Northwest transmission line was wildly over budget. The Vancouver convention centre, the roof at B.C. Place, all over budget.”

The Island Highway expansion in the NDP-led 1990s was a union-only job that was criticized for cost escalation and scaling down to drop interchanges in favour of traffic lights. The Mackenzie interchange north of Victoria is under construction today, after many years of daily traffic slowdowns known as the “Colwood crawl.”

Chris Gardner, president of the non-union Independent Contractors and Business Association, cites a 1994 Vancouver Board of Trade report that estimated the project labour agreement increased Island Highway costs by 38 per cent.

“Horgan’s vision is to use sweetheart deals to tilt the playing field in favour of 20 per cent of the construction workforce,” Gardner said in a recent commentary.

Just Posted

Shipping at Chemainus sawmill comes to a standstill

WFP moves loading of vessels to Duke Point while it considers a cost analysis

Nanaimo RCMP trying to ID people in photos after camera found smashed

Camera was found on Turner Road earlier this month

Ladysmith RCMP probe vandalism at high school

Ladysmith RCMP are investigating vandalism to the high school’s music building that… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Ladysmith students learn traditions around Coast Salish weaving

Language and Land-based class prepares wool for spinning

Ladysmith seeks feedback from developers on service improvements

Ladysmith has launched a survey aimed at garnering input from the development… Continue reading

Vancouver Island’s Best Videos of the Week

A look at some of the best video stories from the past week ending March 23, 2018

Canucks sing the Blues as they fall to St. Louis 4-1

Berglund nets two, including the game-winner, to lift St. Louis over Vancouver

Calving season brings hope for Cariboo ranchers

Still a lot of work ahead to recover from the wildfires

Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond wins figure skating world title

The 22-year-old fwon the women’s singles crown with her Black Swan routine

Vancouver Island pooches celebrate National Puppy Day

Check out some of the submissions we received from around the region

Alberta tells B.C. to stop opposing pipelines if it doesn’t like gas prices

John Horgan said he would like to see the federal government step in to deal with high gas prices.

Comox Valley hospital operating above patient capacity

The new healthcare facility averaged a 110 per cent patient volume between October and February

B.C. mother hit in truck rampage dies

Family confirms mother of four Kelly Sandoval dies almost two months after being hit.

PHOTOS: Students exhibit stunning paper couture dresses

22 paper made gowns will be on display at Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre until March 27

Most Read