Worries arise that BC Hydro can’t guarantee jobs on Site C for local workers

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VANCOUVER, B.C. — The BC Building Trades Council has concerns that fine print on the recently-announced Site C main civic works contract won’t guarantee jobs for B.C. workers.

They alluded to comments by BC Hydro community relations manager David Conway to CKNW, that ‘existing agreements’ with Alberta and Saskatchewan means there is no guarantee that the jobs will go to B.C.’s workers.

In fact, as many as 1,500 jobs the project is supposed to create could be given instead to workers from those respective provinces.

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BC Building Trades President Lee Loftus says, at a time when local workers are having a hard time finding employment, there are already hundreds of workers from Alberta in town for the project. He comments that driving around Fort St. John, it feels like an ‘Alberta shopping mall, with so many trucks with Alberta license plates.’

“Only when every qualified BC construction worker who wants a jobs on this project has been hired should BC Hydro even consider looking outside the province for workers – and that’s simply not the case today at all.”

The contract is going to Peace River Hydro Partners, which is a consortium of Acciona Infrastructure Canada Inc. — a subsidiary of Spanish infrastructure construction firm Acciona, Petrowest Corp. and Samsung C & T Canada Ltd., a division of the giant Korean firm and Alberta-based Petrowest Corporation.

BC Building Trades Executive Board Member Brian Cochrane says it’s ‘shocking’ that BC workers aren’t being assured jobs on the $9-billion project.

“BC taxpayer dollars should not be spent to hire workers from other provinces when we have BC workers ready, willing and able to do those jobs,” he says. “Why would BC Hydro stimulate the economy of Alberta and Saskatchewan and hire workers who pay taxes there instead of BC workers?”

Cochrane says the aforementioned consortium excludes any BC Building Trades affiliated unions, and BC Hydro rejected any Project Labour Agreement as has been used in previous major Hydro construction work to guarantee a local labour supply, stability and training.

He adds there is also worry that Site C construction could be another project to host it’s share of Temporary Foreign Workers.

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“We saw that on the Canada Line, we saw that with HD Mining in Tumbler Ridge and we know there are more Temporary Foreign Workers in B.C. than any other province – it’s time B.C. came first, not last, for jobs.”

Cochrane said BC Hydro’s announcement talks about ‘job fairs’ and ‘networking’ for businesses in northern B.C., but makes no commitments.

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