BC Supreme Court hears CBA legal challenge

February 20, 2020 | Raman Atwal, Charles W. Bois

The Supreme Court of British Columbia heard arguments from February 3 to 7, 2020 from a coalition of British Columbia’s largest construction associations (the “Coalition”) who are challenging the provincial government’s labour framework for the building of public infrastructure projects.

In July 2018, the provincial government broadcast the widely controversial decision that public infrastructure projects, such as the Pattullo Bridge replacement, would be built using unionized labour supplied under the Community Benefits Agreement (“CBA”) negotiated vis-à-vis the BC Building Trades Unions (“BTU”).  As a result of this decision, in order to legally work on any CBA project, a non-BTU worker will have to change unions and pay dues to the BTU while working under the CBA.

The Coalition contends that the provincial government’s newly introduced labour framework for construction of public infrastructure projects violates the rights of 85% of the Province’s construction workforce as the signatory trade unions to the CBA only represent approximately 15% of the Province’s construction workforce.

It is expected that the Coalition will put forth arguments that not only does this government policy prohibit the majority of construction workers from working on CBA projects, but it also presents substantial financial and sustainability risks to contractors primarily due to increased labour costs and decreased availability of specialized labour. Furthermore, the Coalition is likely to argue that the government policy increases the cost of CBA projects and that these costs will fall at the feet of taxpayers.

We are following this matter and will keep you apprised of any new details and the ultimate decision from the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

For more information on the CBA or any construction-related inquiries, please contact the authors.

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