LATEST NEWS Trade Contracting
June 25, 2012
B.C. and Quebec unions sign deal to share workers
The largest construction union in B.C. has entered into a unique partnership with their counterparts in Quebec to take advantage of job opportunities in Western Canada.
“As we all know there is a huge looming shortage of labour coming up and there won’t be enough people to handle all the projects in Western Canada,” said Jan Noster, president of the Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers (CMAW) union.
“Despite this fact, we are not doing a good enough job in getting people, who are available to work in other regions, to where the employment opportunities are.”
CMAW and CSD Construction in Quebec have signed a Mutual Agreement for Cooperation, which is designed to provide CMAW with access to additional skilled construction tradespeople to work on existing projects in western Canada, especially in Alberta’s oilsands region.
“This agreement will be good for members of our union during slack times in construction in Québec,” said CSD construction president Patrick Daigneault.
“CMAW has experience working with construction workers from Quebec and we believe this new relationship will be good for both unions and will provide employers with the skilled trades they desperately need.”
One of the main reasons that CMAW wants to partner with CSD Construction is that the union has never been implicated in the bribery, corruption and organized crime allegations, which currently plague Quebec’s construction industry.
“We invited representatives from CSD Construction to attend our convention in Kelowna, B.C. on May 8 and 9 of this year, and we learned that they are a highly-democratic and independent union much like ourselves,” said Noster.
“We could see we would be a good fit, so we made an agreement.”
CSD Construction was interested because they wanted to establish a relationship with a large union that was active in the Western Canadian construction industry.
Noster said CMAW is currently working to find workers in Quebec to go to a project in Northern B.C.
He said he is also looking to place workers at Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.’s Horizon project, as well as the Joslyn Mine project, which is a joint partnership with Total and Suncor.
Workers for these projects could start to arrive in the next few weeks.
“We want to facilitate the process of getting people from Quebec, which has a huge construction workforce,” said Noster.
“Economic activity is not super slow there, but the province has the biggest pool of available tradespeople in Canada. What we want to do is access that pool of skilled tradespeople.”
Under the new agreement, CSD members working under a CMAW contract won’t pay more dues, and will be able to have their pension and benefit contributions transferred back to their plans in Quebec.
The same arrangements would apply to CMAW workers under a CSD Construction contract.
Noster argued that the agreement is better for the Canadian economy and national unity than some of the other options being used to address the shortage of skilled labour.
“I would say it is better for employers to source workers in Quebec, than to go to the trouble of bringing in temporary foreign workers,” he said.
“I am not against bringing in temporary foreign workers, but I think getting people from Canada is more beneficial to the economy than bringing in foreign workers. Quebec needs to play a larger role in oilsands development.”
This is not the first time that the CMAW has partnered with a Quebec union to source workers for Western Canadian projects.
In 2008-2009, CMAW had an agreement with FTQ-Construction, an association of 17 unions representing more than 70,000 construction workers, to supply about 1,000 people to the Horizon oilsands project.
Noster said at one point the partnership was supplying 10 per cent of the project’s workforce.
He said the CMAW was previously associated with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union and had a working relationship with FTQ Construction, but severed both relationships last year.
CSD Construction (Syndicat des travailleurs de la construction) was formed 40 years ago as a member-run democratic union representing all crafts in the construction industry in Quebec. It has 25,000 members.
CMAW represents more than 7,000 members including carpenters, lathers, millwrights, floorlayers, piledrivers and industrial workers in the four western provinces.
The union declared independence from the U.S.-based International Carpenters Union in 2004 and is the largest union representing construction workers in B.C.
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