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

Luxury Airbnb in Kaleden has notice issued on title by RDOS

The property owner is accused of performing renovations, renting the chalet without proper permits

Low risk associated with case of pneumococcal disease in Oliver

No identified risk to the public from recent case of pneumococcal disease with associated meningitis

TGIF: Penticton and South Okanagan events listings

Live theatre, concerts, events, art exhibits and more from around the South Okanagan

Okanagan Hockey Academy female varsity team starts new campaign

The defending Canadian Sports School League champion OHA kick off new season

Drunk driver gets hammered by judge

Hedley man under virtual house arrest for three months

Your weekend weather update

Rain continues to move right across the Okanagan, Shuswap and Similkameen.

Who’s running in Penticton’s election?

Candidates for the Penticton municipal and school board election

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Yukon man facing new attempted murder charge in B.C. exploding mail case

Leon Nepper, 73, is now facing one charge each of aggravated assault and attempted murder

Most Read