Members of VRCA’s three Divisions came together for a combined Division meeting Oct. 17 at Coast Appliances’ Vancouver headquarters.

The meeting featured updates on four of VRCA’s active advocacy files:

  • Steel and aluminum tariffs;
  • Prompt Payment;
  • Proportional Representation; and
  • Community Benefits Agreement.

The meeting also produced a set of recommended next steps, many of which VRCA has already actioned.

Steel and aluminum tariffs
Further to details on the steel and aluminum tariff advocacy page, VRCA President Fiona Famulak provided members with an update on why Canada is continuing to impose tariffs on imports of American steel and aluminum despite conclusion of the negotiations of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Specifically, steel and aluminum were not part of the USMCA negotiations, and will be addressed separately by government.

She also shared that government, in a bid to protect the Canadian steel market from being flooded with cheap steel from non-U.S. countries, had recently announced a set of safeguards which will see tariffs also applied to imports of non-U.S. steel. Furthermore, the government has created a process to take effect on Oct. 25 to provide companies with relief from Canadian tariffs collected on steel imported from the U.S. since July 1. The relief is available in exceptional circumstances, such as supply shortages.

The VRCA has grave concerns regarding the government’s actions and on Oct. 18 issued a strong statement echoing the disappointment expressed by the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) over the federal government’s decision to impose provisional safeguards on foreign steel imported to Canada from non-U.S. countries and the proposed relief process. Read: Provisional steel safeguards are a double whammy for VRCA members.

Prompt Payment
Further to details on the prompt payment advocacy page, VRCA is continuing to support the British Columbia Construction Association’s (BCCA) effort to see prompt payment legislation introduced by the Province of British Columbia. Provincial prompt payment legislation would apply to publicly and privately funded projects in British Columbia.

Famulak shared that B.C. Attorney General David Eby recently responded to BCCA’s correspondence indicating that while the provincial government wishes to consult the construction industry in the coming months on the need for prompt payment legislation in B.C., it would be at least a year out before any action is taken because the government wants to study the success and shortcomings of the dispute resolution system to be implemented in Ontario in 2019.

Proportional Representation
Further to details on the proportional representation advocacy page, Famulak reminded members the provincial government will be conducting a referendum on electoral reform between Oct. 22 and Nov. 30, in order to decide which voting system British Columbia will use for future provincial elections. VRCA is not taking a formal position on which way British Columbians should vote, and is instead encouraging its members and their employees to get informed and vote.

In partnership with BCCA, VRCA has produced a one-page information sheet to inform members about the referendum and the options voters will be presented with. VRCA is also posting additional resources featuring information from both sides of the debate to the prompt payment advocacy page.

Community Benefits Agreement (CBA)
Further to details on the Community Benefits advocacy page, Famulak confirmed VRCA is vigorously chasing answers to fundamental operational questions that member companies need to have answered before they can decide on whether to bid on projects covered by the Community Benefits Agreement.

BCCA is supporting this effort, and is meeting with the CEO of the new crown corporation, the B.C. Infrastructure Benefits Inc. (BCIB), on Oct. 30. In preparation for that meeting, VRCA provided BCCA with the following member questions:

1. Will a company “lose” its employees so that they can be employed by BCIB, the employer, as per Clause 2.101 of the CBA?
2. If a company will not “lose” its employees – because of BCIB’s authority to delegate certain duties to the Contractor as per Clause 2.101 – what authorities will be delegated?
3. Who is deemed the employer for WCB purposes?
4. How will a company deal with existing labour agreements?
5. What will be the implications for workers’ existing benefits, RRSPs, pensions – will existing benefits be matched by BCIB?
6. How will employees who work on CBA and non-CBA projects be tracked? Will there be increased administration for a company? If so, who will pay for it?
7. How will seniority of employees on a project be respected under the CBA?
8. When will contracts be available for review by industry for risk assessment purposes e.g. how will risk be allocated appropriately when the Contractor needs to rely on BCIB to deliver workers?
9. Who will be accountable for what, when things go wrong?
10. When will the project plan, resource requirements and management of the proposed technical and apprenticeship training program be communicated?

Next steps
VRCA is continuing to monitor these files and will provide updates through its Connector e-newsletter and the related advocacy pages.