Why don’t BC workers come first for jobs in BC?

BC Building Trades unions are shocked that BC Hydro has awarded a huge $1.75 billion construction contract to a foreign-based consortium with no guarantee of jobs for BC workers – and a BC Hydro warning that many of the 1,500 jobs could go to Alberta and Saskatchewan workers.

BC Hydro announced today that the $1.75 million 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.

BC Building Trades Executive Board Member Brian Cochrane says it’s shocking that BC workers aren’t being assured jobs on the $9 billion project.

“This is the single biggest construction project in BC’s history and yet BC Hydro is warning that our province’s workers may not get jobs and instead could give them to Alberta and Saskatchewan workers,” Cochrane said. “BC taxpayer dollars should not be spent to hire workers from other provinces when we have BC workers ready, willing and able to do those jobs.”

“Why would BC Hydro stimulate the economy of Alberta and Saskatchewan and hire workers who pay taxes there instead of BC workers?” Cochrane asks. “It’s time to put BC first when it comes to jobs – not other provinces and not Temporary Foreign Workers.”

That consortium excludes any BC Building Trades affiliated unions and BC Hydro rejected any Project Labour Agreement as has been used in previous major Hydro construction work to guarantee a local labour supply, stability and training, he said.

BC Building Trades President Lee Loftus says there are already hundreds of Alberta workers on the Site C project at a time when many BC workers can’t find employment.

“Drive around Fort St. John and it looks like an Alberta shopping mall, with so many trucks with Alberta license plates,” Loftus said. “Only when every qualified BC construction worker who wants a jobs on this project has been hired should BC Hydro even consider looking outside the province for workers – and that’s simply not the case today at all.”

Cochrane, who is also Business Manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115, said the Building Trades are also worried that Temporary Foreign Workers could be brought in for jobs on Site C.

“BC Hydro is refusing to commit to a BC first policy on jobs and we are concerned that the next step after hiring Alberta and Saskatchewan workers will be to bring in Temporary Foreign workers,” Cochrane said. “We saw that on the Canada Line, we saw that with HD Mining in Tumbler Ridge and we know there are more Temporary Foreign Workers in BC than any other province – it’s time BC came first, not last, for jobs.”

Cochrane said BC Hydro’s announcement talks about “job fairs” and “networking” for businesses in northern BC but makes no commitments.

“Jobs fairs are just window dressing – we fear most jobs will go to non-BC workers and outside firms,” Cochrane said.

“Where is the BC Hydro commitment to hiring BC workers, to providing apprenticeship opportunities, for hiring aboriginal workers, women and workers with disabilities?” Cochrane asked.

Website: www.bcbuildingtrades.org