Teamsters warn on-time, on-budget construction is threatened

BC’s original dam builders speak out

British Columbia’s original dam builders, who built the WAC Bennett, Mica, and Revelstoke dams warned the provincial legislature that BC Hydro is putting the construction of the $9-billion Site C hydro dam at risk.

The few surviving members of the original crews who built the WAC Bennett Dam went to Victoria to inform the legislature that BC Hydro’s is planning to hire low-wage, offshore labour to build Site C while experienced skilled BC dam builders are left idle.

BC’s original dam builders propose a Construction Partnership Agreement with BC Hydro that will guarantee Site C jobs go to British Columbians, who will spend their wages and pay their taxes here in British Columbia.

“We are the original dam builders in BC, and we’ve helped train the current generation of trades people who can get this mega-project built on time and on budget,” said Teamster member Peter Aussem, 79. “I’m shocked that BC Hydro is turning away from what clearly works.”

The BC Building Trades, which represents 40,000 trades people, has advised BC Hydro that without an agreement, modeled after the agreement for the WAC Bennett Dam, the Crown Corporation will not have assured access to the best of BC’s trade workers. This has been the system used in every major dam project since the WAC Bennett Dam was built. The Construction Partnership Agreement will bring union and non-union workers together to build Site C, but they will operate under a unified management model and industry-standard wages that will ensure safety, quality and on-time construction of the $9-billion mega-project.

A poll by the Vancouver-based eNRG polling firm found the vast majority of BC residents agree that it is critical to build Site C with BC workers, with a history of meeting past projects’ budget and timelines. Eight in ten also agree that it is important to ensure no work disruptions. Meanwhile, nearly two- thirds agree that there is no reason to change the historical labour agreement model, and that it is risky to change it with Site C.

The poll found near unanimity among British Columbians who believe it is important that construction of Site C creates jobs for BC workers first. And nearly eight in ten British Columbians consider it extremely or very important that the money earned from the Site C construction stays within the province. This opinion is consistent across regions and whether there is a union member living within the household or not.

“We know that British Columbians believe that no qualified BC worker should be left on the sidelines as BC Hydro opens the door to offshore workers,” said Tom Sigurdson, head of the BC Building Trades. “There should be a BC-first policy on this taxpayer-funded project so that the wages earned are spent and invested in BC communities.”

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