Much has been written in the past week regarding the government’s decision to turn back to Project Labour Agreements to ensure that the government gets full value from the millions of dollars it pours into construction each year in this province.
Certainly, the bridges and highways and hospitals and schools must be built, but the government needs to ensure that the industry remains healthy and capable of continuing to meet the construction needs of the province.
Non-union construction companies don't care about that. They care about doing the job at hand as cheaply as they can to maximize their profit. The health of the industry is someone else’s concern.
Unionized firms, on the other hand, collaborate with their unions to set up training centres for apprentices and retraining for ticketed tradespeople, a vital component guaranteeing the future of the industry. Apprentices are vital to the future health of the construction industry, because they will be needed to step into the boots of the skilled trades who are retiring. It takes five or more years to train most apprentices, including their annual classroom work and their on-the-job learning from an experienced journeyperson.
Unions and their employers are also tuned in to local hiring, and employment of women and aboriginal workers on construction sites. And they set a wage scale through negotiations which provides a living wage to workers. These PLAs also come with a negotiated no-strike no-lockout clause for the duration of the project, which is a huge advantage in bringing a project in on time and on budget.
But overall, the greatest advantage of the Project Labour Agreement approach is it guarantees that all workers from top to bottom have the training, the supervision, and the work structure which enables them to provide work of the highest quality.
A large part of that work structure comes out of the collective agreement, which spells out in great detail the responsibilities of workers and employer representatives on the job site.
The result is a much more disciplined project, where safety is the number one priority, and where quality workmanship ensures that the bridge or building or road or dam will stand the test of time. Union work produces good value, and this province needs more of that.
August 1, 2018