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Letter: Columnist ignores advantages of community benefits agreement

CBA ensures employees have safe workplaces, fair wages, training and access to health and welfare programs, reader says.
David Eby, with then-premier John Horgan in 2019. The current and previous BC NDP governments have worked toward Indigenous reconciliation and better conditions for workers, says a reader.

Re: NDP community benefits agreements policy conflict for Eby, Feb. 21.


Rob Shaw has committed what has become all too common with media coverage. He seems more interested in fanning the controversy rather than reporting fairly and accurately. There are always two sides to any controversy.

The creation of the community benefits agreement (CBA) was designed to increase the participation of Indigenous people, women and other under-represented groups in the construction industry.

The participation of Indigenous people on British Columbia Infrastructure Benefit (BCIB) projects has reached an unprecedented 17 per cent as a result of the implementation of the CBA.

The angry Indigenous contractor(s) that Shaw references should have been well aware of the terms and conditions of the CBA when they bid into the Cowichan Hospital project as any diligent contractor would. All contractors are eligible to bid into BCIB projects.

All employees are employed by BCIB. This ensures that all workers receive compensation and benefits equal to any other worker on the project. This ensures that contractors are not undercutting other contractors by not paying their workers fair and comparable wage packages. No contractors are locked out of BCIB projects. Contractors are protected from being organized on these projects and are not required to be unionized to bid.

Yes, all employees must join a union once employed on a BCIB site and only for the time they are employed by BCIB. This ensures that they are qualified and that they are able to take advantage of all of the benefits and programs available.

The CBA was negotiated to address the problems inherent in the construction industry for both contractors and employees. It is a far-reaching and refreshing attempt to change the culture of the industry.

The CBA ensures that all employees are entitled to a safe workplace and treated fairly with common wages, access to apprenticeship and training as well as health and welfare programs. Bullying and harassment are not tolerated and a first-class substance abuse program is available.

BCIB requires that all employees receive the Respectful Onsite Initiative. This is an orientation that delivers “History Matters” (Indigenous history and reconciliation) as well as a presentation on gender equity before going to work on site.

It should be noted that the unions agreed to provide the exemption from union membership for the Cowichan Tribal Council and its contractors after discussions with the Council and the Government. This was considered a fair resolve to the issue.

Shaw aims unjustly at one of the most popular premiers this province has had by using John Horgan as an excuse to caution Premier Eby. This government and the previous government have been and will continue to work toward reconciliation and fair and just treatment of contractors and all employees in the construction industry.

Wayne Peppard