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

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
253 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths in Interior Health over the weekend

More than 1,000 cases in the region remain active

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
RCMP: Small tin saved Trail man from stabbing

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

School District 8 is asking the education ministry to stop making the Foundation Skills Assessment data public. File photo
Kootenay Lake School District requests education ministry make annual student assessments private

The district is concerned the data is being misused by the Fraser Institute

Nelson has begun 2021 with a small rise in COVID-19 cases. Illustration: BC Centre for Disease Control
Ten new cases of COVID-19 in Nelson area

The cases were reported for the week of Jan. 3 to 9

Zoey Uniat is now three months old. Photo: Submitted
Castlegar baby with rare disorder progressing towards coming home

Fundraiser for Zoey Uniat has raised more than $50,000

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Sunnybank
COVID-19 related deaths at Oliver, West Kelowna and Vernon senior care homes

Sunnybank, Heritage Retirement Residence and Noric House recorded deaths over the weekend

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Most Read