Maintenance on the Trans Mountain pipeline, which has run from Alberta to B.C. and Washington since 1954. B.C.’s apprenticeship training system involves traditional trades such as pipefitter, electrician and carpenter, as well as cooking, aircraft maintenance and other skills. (Trans Mountain photo)

Maintenance on the Trans Mountain pipeline, which has run from Alberta to B.C. and Washington since 1954. B.C.’s apprenticeship training system involves traditional trades such as pipefitter, electrician and carpenter, as well as cooking, aircraft maintenance and other skills. (Trans Mountain photo)

‘Compulsory trades’ next battleground for B.C. industry

NDP aims to end B.C.’s 2003 move to workplace ‘flexibility’

Premier John Horgan aims to put an end to B.C.’s long-running experiment in delivery of trade apprenticeship training, ordering the labour and advanced education ministers to “restore the compulsory trades system” during the NDP government’s four-year mandate.

Horgan’s objective is the same as his often-stated goal for union-only public construction: to increase the number of apprentices and especially those who go on to complete their trade tickets. Both efforts are backed by the B.C. and Yukon Building Trades Council and the B.C. Federation of Labour, which called for a return to compulsory trades training when Horgan’s NDP government was elected in 2017.

With a majority mandate, stage one is to expand public construction projects that are restricted to 19 mostly U.S.-based international unions. The Pattullo bridge replacement serves as the model for a deal that requires every worker to join an approved union within 30 days. The 330-page “Community Benefits Agreement” (CBA) with the unions requires 25 per cent of jobs for apprentices and attempts to restrict hiring to people who live within 100 km of the project.

Stage two is to remake the Industry Training Authority, the Crown corporation set up in 2003 by Gordon Campbell’s B.C. Liberal government to manage apprenticeships and provide more accessible training for in-demand skills.

RELATED: ‘Progressive’ contractors want share of public projects

RELATED: Trade union expansion key goal for B.C. NDP in 2021

Horgan’s new mandate letters to returning Labour Minister Harry Bains and newly appointed Advanced Education Minister Ann Kang say compulsory trades are “to improve safety and give more workers a path to apprenticeship completion.” Critics point out that the vast majority of traditional trades work now is with non-union employers and those with more flexible workplaces.

“Given that fully 85 per cent of the nearly 250,000 men and women who work in construction in B.C. work for open-shop (non-building trades) companies, the government must ensure there is a level playing field when it comes to issuing contracts for taxpayer-funded infrastructure,” says Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Business Association. “Giving preferential status to selected unions is simply not fair, and the record on the projects tendered to date under CBAs is abundantly clear. Taxpayers are paying about 30 per cent more and getting less.”

In a 2017 consultant’s report, the B.C. Federation of Labour argued that B.C.’s industry training system is unlike any other province. The report described it as the “modularization of trades training: instead of covering the full scope of a large, varied trade like carpentry, an individual could acquire certification as a former, framer, and finishing carpenter through a series of progressive credentials” or modules.

The B.C. Fed argues this deregulation shifted apprenticeships in favour of employers and their immediate skill needs, and it wants authority over apprenticeships shifted back to its member unions. Gardner’s ICBA says the B.C. Building Trades’ apprenticeships represent only 15 per cent of the total, and compulsory trades are a further restriction on new entry.

The Industry Training Authority’s efforts at innovation include a series of pilot projects launched at post-secondary institutions in 2016, not dependent on apprenticeships with employer sponsors. They included 75 spaces at North Island College for “foundation programs: electrician, heavy equipment operator, welder, aircraft structural technician and carpenter.”

Camosun College was funded for two programs, 10 training spaces for piping trades and eight for level three professional cooks. Okanagan College received seven spaces for level one electrician training, and Vancouver Community College was accepted for six automotive glass technician spots. Vancouver Island University received 12 spaces for level one baker training.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

Sickle Point as seen from the air. (Kaleden Community Association - David Mai)
Second town hall for Sickle Point on Jan. 27

The first town hall was cut short due to technical issues

Nate Brown photo
Okanagan-Shuswap says goodbye sunshine, hello winter

Temperatures are forecasted to drop by mid-next week

The facility in Summerland has 112 long-term care beds. Interior Health funds 75 of the beds. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Six more months for temporary Summerland Seniors Village adminstrator

The temporary administrator was appointed following site visits and concerns from Interior Health

President Donald Trump speaks to the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington. The President is traveling to Texas. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Black Press Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

In case you missed it, here’s what made waves throughout the week

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
13 more cases of COVID-19 tied to Big White Mountain cluster

This brings the total case count to 175, of which 32 cases are active

RCMP on scene at a home on Sylvania Cres. (Phil McLachlan /Capital News/FILE)
Two Kelowna men arrested after Rutland home invasion

Two Kelowna men, including a prolific offender, facing slew of potential charges

Most Read