March 9, 2022

Al Phillips

Al Phillips, President

THE PAST FEW YEARS have highlighted the importance of the work of our members in the BC Building Trades unions. Early on in the pandemic, our trades were deemed essential and most of our members continued to work, providing critical services necessary to sustain life, health, and the public safety of our communities. This work continued amid unknown health risks to our members, and our unions responded by leading the charge for enhanced safety measures for all workers: demanding more washing stations, more protective equipment, clean, plumbed washrooms and
securing the right of all workers to paid sick days.

It is no surprise that the Building Trades unions have once again responded with force to the devastation brought on by the historical flooding experienced in B.C. last November. Financially, the response was immediate and generous: $622,000 was raised among our affiliate unions. With matching contributions from both the provincial and federal governments, the victims of the disaster received more than $1.8 million from our collective efforts.

On the ground, many of our members were first on the scene to assist in the rebuilding of infrastructure, roads, pump stations, treatment plants, schools and hospitals. All of our trades have and will be called upon to assist. From our heavy equipment operators and ironworkers who are rebuilding roads, to our plumbers, electricians, carpenters and insulators who are rebuilding communities, our members are once again leading the response in yet another emergency situation.

It is unfortunate that it has taken a pandemic and extreme weather conditions for our skilled membership to gain the recognition and enhanced working conditions that should have been industry practice all along. There is no going back now. Through the collective action of our BC Building Trades unions, we must and will continue to pressure government to expand upon these hard-fought gains so that all workers are treated fairly and equitably.

Your BC Building Trades and its affiliated unions are optimistic and ready for further improvements. With the legislature ready to sit in Victoria early this year, change is afoot. We have seen good progress with our “Get Flushed!” campaign, in which we have put a spotlight on the inadequate cleanliness and sanitation conditions of many construction sites. By participating in industry consultations for changes to regulations and policy, we have seen increased site inspections and policing. We will continue to educate and fight for potable water and clean washup facilities, flush toilets, and heated washrooms for all workers.

Led by Ironworkers Local 97 and other interested affiliates, we are combatting the misuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that disproportionately affects British Columbia. We have sourced documents through Freedom of Information requests that show B.C. consistently has the largest share of construction TFWs for all of Canada. In some trades, 90 per cent of the foreign workers come to B.C. This is not acceptable, and we are taking collective action to address this issue.

Among the other positive things that are happening, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training is rolling out their Skilled Trades Certification Program. This will finally bring structure and professionalism back to the construction industry in B.C. Starting with 10 skilled trades (with more to follow), all workers must be either certified journeypersons or sponsored apprentices in their trade in order to work on any jobsite. Formal in-class training coupled with on-the-job experience ensures the public and end user will have quality trained, experienced and professional tradespeople building their projects.

Please engage with the BC Building Trades on social media and through your affiliated local union’s social media. We are always interested in your feedback.

By Al Phillips