Building Trades challenge Energy Minister’s Site C job claims

 Building Trades: “BC jobs must come first – why no guarantees?”

 VANCOUVER – BC Building Trades unions are challenging Energy Minister Bill Bennett’s claims that the province is creating BC jobs at the $9 billion Site C Dam project, pointing out that BC Liberal MLA Pat Pimm is promoting a program to bring foreign workers to Fort St. John and local contractors are being left out of work by BC Hydro.

Bennett claimed yesterday in media interviews that: “There will be lots and lots of British Columbians working on Site C” adding that Building Trades’ complaints were “sour grapes” and “totally bogus”.

But Building Trades Executive Board Member Brian Cochrane says Bennett’s fellow BC Liberal MLA Pat Pimm of Peace River North is actually promoting a provincial program to bring foreign workers to Fort St. John.

“If there’s an opportunity to reach out and be able to bring in some of these foreign workers… I’m certainly 100 per cent in favour of it. I hope we can get it off the ground,” Pimm told the Prince George Citizen in August.

And local contractors are complaining that they have been excluded from Site C work, with Wapiti Earthworks co-owner Guy MacLean calling it: “just a slap in the face for local people” earlier this year.

Cochrane said Bennett should get his facts straight and stop blaming the BC Building Trades for his own government’s broken promises and failure to protect BC jobs.

“What BC Hydro and the government have done has definitely soured BC workers and local BC contractors – because there are no guarantees they will get work on the biggest construction project in provincial history,” Cochrane says.

“And then a BC Liberal MLA is promoting bringing foreign workers to Fort St. John?  It’s unbelievable, yet Bennett is criticizing the Building Trades for pointing out the obvious – his government has not put BC workers first – in fact, they put Alberta, Saskatchewan and even foreign workers ahead of us,” Cochrane adds.

Bennett himself claimed to the Alaska Highway News in October that setting guidelines to ensure BC workers were hired could “add $3 billion” to the project costs – something Cochrane completely rejects.

“Minister Bennett throws around wild, unsubstantiated numbers with no documentation and he’s doing it again – we say, tell British Columbians the truth – BC Hydro is hiring Alberta and Saskatchewan workers right now and we will see Temporary Foreign Workers at Site C in the near future,” Cochrane says.

BC Hydro announced Monday that a $1.75 billion contract will go to Peace River Hydro Partners is a consortium that includes Acciona Infrastructure Canada Inc. — a subsidiary of Spanish infrastructure construction firm Acciona, Petrowest Corp. and Samsung C & T Canada Ltd., a division of the giant Korean firm and Alberta-based Petrowest Corporation.

BC Hydro community relations manager David Conway told CKNW News that because of “existing agreements” with Alberta and Saskatchewan there is no guarantee jobs will go to BC workers.

Cochrane says the Building Trades proposed a Project Labour Agreement for Site C that would have maximized local hiring and BC workforce development, ensured skilled worker supply and labour peace but instead BC Hydro and the government chose a model where they “hope” BC workers get hired without any guarantees.

“Something on this large of a scale where the government has complete control and where they ‘hope’ or have ‘aspirational’ goals about BC workers being hired speaks the obvious. They don’t really care about the BC workforce or are completely incompetent,” Says Cochrane, who is also Business Manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115.

“We spend millions of tax dollars promoting training of the next generation of skilled trades and then our BC government won’t commit to them – is that not a strong disconnect to what our goals should be for the province?” Cochrane asks.