Community benefits. Stronger communities.
It’s no surprise that approximately 70% of British Columbians support Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs), according to a recent poll by Research CO.
However, criticisms are being hurled by anti-union groups like the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA), the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses and groups like the Christian Labour Alliance of Canada (CLAC). These groups are known for their opposition to Building Trades unions (of which Teamsters Local 213 is a member). The term ‘independent’ in ‘independent contractors’ is a reference to being non-union. These groups have recently launched a lawsuit, and are receiving a lot of media attention, claiming that the Community Benefits Agreements are unconstitutional as they do not give employees the choice to join CLAC.
The fact of the matter is that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms accommodates specific unions to represent workers in an industry so long as the opportunity for free collective bargaining is present.
As a condition of tender, contractors must adhere to the CBA, factoring in the costs and conditions as part of their bid. This allows a standardization of wages and working conditions and allows the government to require conditions like local hire and apprenticeships.
Rather than endorse an unworkable patchwork of collective agreements, the government and the trades worked together to create a single over-arching agreement that covers every trade.
Community Benefits Agreements are an asset to the people of British Columbia. They ensure fair wages, local hiring and apprenticeships on local projects. They also prevent unscrupulous contractors from engaging in a race to the bottom on wages, and cutting corners on apprenticeships and safety standards. That may be why there is so much opposition to them in the media.
The BC NDP’s government’s announcement to build the Pattullo Bridge and Highway 1 upgrades through a Community Benefits Agreement will give hundreds of workers across B.C. opportunities in the skilled trades.
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