Reaffiliation will benefit B.C.’s unionized construction industry

Date: 
Friday, August 18, 2017
“It’s an exciting time for us to revisit our history,” said BCBT President Lee Loftus after the unanimous vote by B.C. Regional Council of Carpenters; Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 170; Millwrights Local 2736; and the Piledrivers Local 2404 and current Building Trades members in favor of a resolution to "endorse the principle of unity for British Columbia’s Construction Crafts and agree to fully support a re-unified Council to the benefit of all."

By David Hogben

The framework is in place for the unification of B.C. construction unions.

B.C. Building Trades (BCBT) affiliates and re-affiliating unions laid out how they will work together during a special convention at the Pacific Gateway Hotel in Richmond on April 25.

The B.C. Regional Council of Carpenters; Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 170; Millwrights Local 2736; and the Piledrivers Local 2404 joined current Building Trades members in voting unanimously in favor of a resolution to “endorse the principle of unity for British Columbia’s Construction Crafts and agree to fully support a re-unified Council to the benefit of all.”

“It’s an exciting time for us to revisit our history,” said BCBT President Lee Loftus after the vote.

“There was a time when the building trades [council] in B.C. was one of the strongest advocates for working people, and because of some internal strife around the typical stuff construction industry works with, specifically jurisdiction, we found ourselves wandering down different paths,” Loftus said.

“Fortunately, today it looks like all those paths are coming back together.”

The final step in uniting unionized construction workers is set for the BCBT’s annual convention in September which will include changes to the constitution and bylaws that will bring the re-affiliating members back to the council.

The April meeting also set out preliminary budgets, funding, and voting rules for the special convention.

Brian Zdrilic, the millwrights’ business manager, said the re-affiliation will give his union a better ability to deal with political and Labour Relations Board issues such as organizing and certifications. “It’s going to be a higher profile for our members,” he said. “A bigger voice carries a lot farther than a single voice.”

Joe Shayler, business manager of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 170, said “It’s best for the building trades to be together working towards increasing market share in the construction industry and supporting each other.”

Shayler said he wants to see the increased strength of the unified council be put to work focusing on “dealing with issues such as trade qualification tickets in municipalities through the inspection departments.” Municipal inspectors should be required to visit construction sites to ensure that qualified tradespeople are on site, doing quality work, he said.

Darrell Hawk, the piledrivers’ business manager, said there will be improvements for his members because of the re-affiliation.

“I think it’s big picture stuff, trying to be a common voice, on things like project labour agreements.” That common voice, he said, adds strength when promoting union qualifications and apprenticeships.

Jason Pedersen, business manager for the Sheet Metal Workers Local 276 and a current member of the council, said the return of the former affiliates will make it more attractive for project developers to deal with the BC Building Trades rather than face dealing with multiple unions.

“The reason that keeps some people out is they say, ‘I have to deal with 11 or 12 different unions on my own. Why would I do it?’

“[Now] a contractor can say I need this building, and we can say, ‘Well, we can do that for you’,” Pedersen said. “That is something we haven’t had since Expo ’86 when lots of the fragmenting began.”

Bob Blakely, chief executive officer for the Canada’s Building Trades Unions, said the voice of unionized construction workers in B.C. will be stronger with the return of the reaffiliating members.

Anyone trying to put forward a message for the public good faces the same challenge. “If your message is sound, some people may hear it. [But] if your message is sound and carried by a number of people, your chances of success go up astronomically,” Blakely said. For unions, “it means that their views get represented.”

Tom Sigurdson, BCBT executive director, said bringing the groups back into the fold will be good for them and existing Building Trades members. “Having the groups together in the same room means the level of debate will be better focused because it will represent more of the unionized construction industry in B.C.

“We need that. We have had holes. We have not had the carpenters. We have not had the plumbers. So those gaps are going to be filled. We are certainly going to be able to advance, in a more holistic way, the benefits of having qualified workers delivering a quality product to the consuming public.

“We are going to be a little more focused, a little more driven, and deliver the benefits to the members who are working on the tools.”

Sigurdson is optimistic the re-affiliation process will be ready for the finishing touches at the September convention.

For More Information: 

Contact the BC Building Trades office
(778) 397-2220

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