B.C.’s master union agreement for public construction could add as much as $100 million to the cost of replacing the Pattullo Bridge, according to B.C. transportation ministry estimates. (Black Press files)

B.C.’s master union agreement for public construction could add as much as $100 million to the cost of replacing the Pattullo Bridge, according to B.C. transportation ministry estimates. (Black Press files)

Construction companies challenge ‘illegal’ B.C. union restrictions

Lawsuit filed as government starts subway, bridge, highway work

As the B.C. government embarks on billions of dollars worth of public infrastructure construction, four contractor groups have filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court to challenge the NDP government’s restricting the work to 19 international building trade unions.

Premier John Horgan’s “community benefits agreements” and a new government agency to work with the selected unions are in place for several major projects, including the $2.83 billion Broadway subway extension in Vancouver.

The rules, which require all contractor employees to join the designated trade unions, also apply to the $1.4 billion Pattullo bridge replacement linking Surrey and New Westminster, and future sections of the Trans-Canada Highway four-laning from Kamloops to the Alberta border.

READ MORE: Province selects three bidders for Pattullo replacement

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Transportation Minister Claire Trevena has acknowledged that the union rules are expected to add about seven per cent to the cost of major projects, through wages and union work restrictions. The agreements give international unions priority in exchange for agreements not to strike during construction.

“The Horgan government is exercising its authority for an illegal purpose,” said Peter Gall, the lawyer representing the coalition of contractors and excluded unions. “As a result, the constitutional rights of 85 per cent of the province’s construction workers are being violated.”

The lawsuit is backed by the Independent Contractors and Business Association, the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, the Canada West Union and CLAC.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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