Maintenance on the Trans Mountain pipeline, which has run from Alberta to B.C. and Washington since 1954. B.C.’s apprenticeship training system involves traditional trades such as pipefitter, electrician and carpenter, as well as cooking, aircraft maintenance and other skills. (Trans Mountain photo)

Maintenance on the Trans Mountain pipeline, which has run from Alberta to B.C. and Washington since 1954. B.C.’s apprenticeship training system involves traditional trades such as pipefitter, electrician and carpenter, as well as cooking, aircraft maintenance and other skills. (Trans Mountain photo)

‘Compulsory trades’ next battleground for B.C. industry

NDP aims to end B.C.’s 2003 move to workplace ‘flexibility’

Premier John Horgan aims to put an end to B.C.’s long-running experiment in delivery of trade apprenticeship training, ordering the labour and advanced education ministers to “restore the compulsory trades system” during the NDP government’s four-year mandate.

Horgan’s objective is the same as his often-stated goal for union-only public construction: to increase the number of apprentices and especially those who go on to complete their trade tickets. Both efforts are backed by the B.C. and Yukon Building Trades Council and the B.C. Federation of Labour, which called for a return to compulsory trades training when Horgan’s NDP government was elected in 2017.

With a majority mandate, stage one is to expand public construction projects that are restricted to 19 mostly U.S.-based international unions. The Pattullo bridge replacement serves as the model for a deal that requires every worker to join an approved union within 30 days. The 330-page “Community Benefits Agreement” (CBA) with the unions requires 25 per cent of jobs for apprentices and attempts to restrict hiring to people who live within 100 km of the project.

Stage two is to remake the Industry Training Authority, the Crown corporation set up in 2003 by Gordon Campbell’s B.C. Liberal government to manage apprenticeships and provide more accessible training for in-demand skills.

RELATED: ‘Progressive’ contractors want share of public projects

RELATED: Trade union expansion key goal for B.C. NDP in 2021

Horgan’s new mandate letters to returning Labour Minister Harry Bains and newly appointed Advanced Education Minister Ann Kang say compulsory trades are “to improve safety and give more workers a path to apprenticeship completion.” Critics point out that the vast majority of traditional trades work now is with non-union employers and those with more flexible workplaces.

“Given that fully 85 per cent of the nearly 250,000 men and women who work in construction in B.C. work for open-shop (non-building trades) companies, the government must ensure there is a level playing field when it comes to issuing contracts for taxpayer-funded infrastructure,” says Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Business Association. “Giving preferential status to selected unions is simply not fair, and the record on the projects tendered to date under CBAs is abundantly clear. Taxpayers are paying about 30 per cent more and getting less.”

In a 2017 consultant’s report, the B.C. Federation of Labour argued that B.C.’s industry training system is unlike any other province. The report described it as the “modularization of trades training: instead of covering the full scope of a large, varied trade like carpentry, an individual could acquire certification as a former, framer, and finishing carpenter through a series of progressive credentials” or modules.

The B.C. Fed argues this deregulation shifted apprenticeships in favour of employers and their immediate skill needs, and it wants authority over apprenticeships shifted back to its member unions. Gardner’s ICBA says the B.C. Building Trades’ apprenticeships represent only 15 per cent of the total, and compulsory trades are a further restriction on new entry.

The Industry Training Authority’s efforts at innovation include a series of pilot projects launched at post-secondary institutions in 2016, not dependent on apprenticeships with employer sponsors. They included 75 spaces at North Island College for “foundation programs: electrician, heavy equipment operator, welder, aircraft structural technician and carpenter.”

Camosun College was funded for two programs, 10 training spaces for piping trades and eight for level three professional cooks. Okanagan College received seven spaces for level one electrician training, and Vancouver Community College was accepted for six automotive glass technician spots. Vancouver Island University received 12 spaces for level one baker training.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The rebranding project under which the new logo and website have been launched, began in 2019. (Lakes District News photo)
Village of Burns Lake gets a new digital look

Launches its new logo and website

A room at the BC ALS Clinic in the dreary basement of GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre. (Greg Gowe photo/Lakes District News)
Hope through ALS clinincal trials needed in the province, says B.C. man

Greg Gowe, diagnosed with ALS calls on the government for better treatment options

The Chamber currently has a total of 136 members of which 16 joined in 2020 alone. (Laura Blackwell photo/Lakes District News)
Burns Lake & District Chamber of Commerce to host an open house in February

Has started making plans for events to host in 2021

Antoine Tom with the bake sale items that helped him raise $1,000. (Sabrina Tom photo/Lakes District News)
12-year-old local boy dubbed ‘kindness hero’

Raises money for classmate who lost his home

Village council meets in person, shares the meeting with the community via zoom. (Lakes District News photo)
Village council meets with newly installed plexiglass dividers

General public to continue attending meetings virtually

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.
B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at B.C. legislature on the province’s mass vaccination plan for COVID-19, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 quarantine not an option for B.C., John Horgan says

Apres-ski parties increase risk, not interprovincial travel

Most Read