Keep doing what you’re doing.

Sean McGarvey That was the message from Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, to delegates and guests at the BC Building Trades convention in Victoria recently.

“The training and apprenticeship system in British Columbia is second to none,” said McGarvey. “Your skilled trades workforce is competitive because we invest in training and apprenticeships, and the productivity that your members show on the job site each and every day.“

McGarvey was scheduled to attend the convention and deliver remarks in person, however, he missed his flight from Washington, DC to Victoria due to a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. The president was late arriving for a meeting with a national workers’ advisory board. “If I left, it would have caused an international incident,” said McGarvey via Skype.

McGarvey said NABTU’s slogan – “Value on display. Every day” – exemplifies the importance of the Building Trades, and what their collective organizations demonstrate in the way of professionalism and productivity. Building trades unions, said McGarvey, provide education and career options to the working and middle classes, with wages and benefits that allow them to support their families.

He lauded initiatives like SkillPlan, which is partly funded by BCBT membership dues. SkillPlan provides essential skills training and other supports for apprentices and pre-apprentices. It also provides education to journey-level workers, supervisors, business reps and contractors.

BCBT training providers also spend more than $21 million a year on training and have more than $53 million in training assets across the province (land, facilities and equipment). There are more than 7,300 apprentices and trainees in BCBT union training programs.

These and other BCBT programs and partnerships aimed at increasing the participation of women, Indigenous workers, veterans and new Canadians will all contribute positively to managing our skilled trades shortage and increase the participation of underrepresented groups in the construction industry, said McGarvey.

“The positive ROI from these investments is leading to strong community partnerships, more diversity in the construction industry, and a top-trained workforce in the building trades in Canada,” said McGarvey.

The NABTU president also gave nods to the provincial and federal governments for two initiatives. He said B.C. is leading the way in safety, skills training and economic investment through the Community Benefits Agreements construction framework. CBAs ensure union wages, benefits and training and prioritize hiring of local residents, apprentices, women in trades and Indigenous workers on a handful of public construction projects. The federal government, meanwhile, is taking action to improve workers’ safety by finally banning the import, sale and use of asbestos products.

“It was past president of the Building Trades here in B.C., Lee Loftus, who has been fighting the battle against asbestos for decades. I want to take a moment to thank lifelong crusaders like Lee, because it was the work put in to do the research on the effects of asbestos, gather the alarming numbers of workers dying from asbestos-related illness, and then educating not only our elected officials but the public on what asbestos could do to you and your loved ones, that really moved the yardstick on changing the way things are built in this country.”

McGarvey closed his presentation by urging union members to support candidates in the next federal election who support the Building Trades and who support labour.