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 COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

A tree near the Sword Avenue baseball diamond was felled by high winds. The diamond is planned to be decommissioned by the city of Quesnel. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel planning on shutting down ballfields

City council hopes maximize the usage at West Fraser Timber Park and Barlow Creek

Cookies were available to celebrate the grand opening of the North Cariboo Seniors’ Council in Oct. of 2020. (File Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel seniors’ group to get COVID-19 funding boost

City council approved giving the North Cariboo Seniors Council $100k in provincial grant money

The Quesnel Fire Hall located at 310 Kinchant St. needs improvement. Quesnel council approved applying for a grant to cover the costs. (File Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel’s $12 million capital plan not just about gold pan

While conversation surrounding the monument’s location dominated council, other projects were funded

Leah Stump was elected chief of Nazko First Nation on Dec. 14, 2020. (Photo submitted)
Nazko chief hopes to lead by example

Checkpoints around the First Nation look to prevent COVID-19 from entering the vulnerable community

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Most Read