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September 26, 2018

Manitoba construction workers and labour campaign against proposed Bill 28 to ban project labour agreements

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Construction workers and labour representatives have launched a public campaign to stop Bill 28, which involves billboards and bus ads decrying the Public Sector Construction Projects (Tendering) Act.

Manitoba Building Trades chief executive officer Sudhir Sandhu said the bill – which will be debated when the fall legislative sitting begins Oct. 3 – will ban project labour agreements (PLAs).

PLAs are used on construction projects to prioritize local jobs, project safety and construction quality, Sandhu said. Past and current examples include the Red River Floodway expansion project and construction of Manitoba Hydro’s Keeyask generating site.

“If we’re going to spend billions of dollars building infrastructure locally – whether that’s municipalities, whether that’s the province – and we do not leverage those dollars to create employment and opportunities for Manitoba’s workers and Manitoba’s youth, then we are falling behind other jurisdictions that are much smarter than we are,” Sandhu said at a rally Tuesday.

“In Manitoba, at Keeyask, despite having a project labour agreement in place, right now, only 53 per cent of workers are Manitoban. And imagine what it would be without a PLA.”

A government spokesperson said Bill 28 doesn’t ban PLAs outright, but assures bidders can’t be selected to work on projects solely because they are using such an agreement.

“It will be up to the companies bidding on contracts to determine if they want to use that labour management tool or not,” the spokesperson said by email.

“Government can still award points in the grading matrix for (using PLAs). However, this legislation does not affect government and agencies’ ability to require certain framework, such as use of local labour, indigenous labour requirements, (percentage) of apprentices, etc., when determining what requisites are included in the bidding process.”

Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said Bill 28 will ensure “qualified workers and their employers, regardless of union status, have equal access to publicly funded construction projects in the province.”

Keep reading in the Winnipeg Free Press


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