Community Benefit Agreements are intended to benefit the people of our province
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure
MLA: Hon. Claire Trevena
few weeks ago, our government announced details of Community Benefit
Agreements, an important part of our plan to create good jobs for
people in communities across the province.
These agreements are
designed to ensure that when public dollars are spent on major
infrastructure, these projects create good jobs for local workers,
support local businesses, train apprentices to address BC’s skilled
worker shortage, and get infrastructure projects built on time and on
Since then, I’ve heard from many people interested in
how this will affect them. I’d like to answer your questions and
provide some additional information on how these agreements will work
for people, businesses, and communities.
Agreements are intended first and foremost to benefit the people of our
province. These agreements put qualified people who live within 100
kilometers of the project first in line for work. Hiring local people
means putting food on the table for BC families. It means growing local
economies and building thriving communities as workers spend money at
local businesses. Community Benefit Agreements also diversify our
workforce by hiring more people from underrepresented groups such as
women and First Nations.
British Columbia is facing a major
skills shortage that was ignored by the BC Liberal government for
years. Projects will be competing for workers in a very tight market –
and without action, this problem will become a crisis as more workers
retire. This shortage limits economic growth and drives up the cost of
projects. We want to fix that.
That’s why the Community Benefit
Agreement includes an overall 25% target ratio on projects for
apprentices. This creates opportunities for young people and ensures
we’re training the next generation of skilled workers. Without the 25%
apprentice target, there are few incentives for employers to train
apprentices - one of the causes of the skilled worker shortage BC is
The BC Liberals and their big money allies have made
some sensational and inaccurate claims about the costs associated with
Community Benefit Agreements. Because of the higher number of
apprentices, more full-time staff are needed onsite to reach full
productivity. While this contributes to an increased investment of 4-7%
upfront (already included in our budget), the long-term economic
benefits of training the next generation of skilled workers far
outweigh the costs. In the case of the Pattullo Bridge replacement,
these costs are already factored into the $1.377 billion project
Community Benefit Agreements will help ensure projects
are completed on time and on budget. For years, the BC Liberals used a
“low bid” model that saw projects go hundreds of millions over budget.
BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson knows this as well as anyone – he
was the Deputy Minister in charge during construction of the Vancouver
Convention Centre, which blew its budget by $335 million.
Community Benefit Agreements, signed collective agreements set wages
for the duration of the project and prevent strikes or lockouts. These
predictable labour costs will help our government turn the page on the
BC Liberal record of cost overruns.
These agreements have a
successful track record and have been used for decades in British
Columbia and other jurisdictions. Since 1963, seventeen BC Hydro dams
have been built using agreements like this. Every single one was
constructed on time and on budget.
Like any unionized worksite
in BC, workers must be union members while they are employed at the
project. However, any qualified worker will have the opportunity to
apply regardless of whether or not they are currently union members.
Similarly, both union and non-union contractors are eligible to bid on
the project. There is nothing in the agreement that prevents non-union
contractors from being a part of the process.
Agreements are good for local and small contractors because they level
the playing field with known wage rates and access to qualified skilled
trades workers, allowing more contractors to bid.
People in our
province work hard, and they care about the communities in which they
live. The infrastructure projects British Columbians own should do more
for them, too.
It’s time to make our infrastructure
investments work for the people of B.C. The Community Benefit Agreement
is how we make it happen.