Frequently Asked Questions
There are many different types of Community Benefits Agreements. Generally, a CBA is an agreement that sets out hiring provisions on publicly funded infrastructure projects. Typically, there will be provisions for hiring qualified local workers first, as well as underrepresented groups, including Indigenous Peoples, apprentices and women in trades. CBAs also include provisions for union wages, and ensure there are no work stoppages (strikes, lockouts) for the duration of construction.
No. CBAs have been used throughout North America for 20 years. The City of Los Angeles has seen a number of successful CBAs.
No. Non-union and union contractors may both bid on the project. The only requirement is adhering to the provisions of the CBA, which may include provisions to pay union wages for the duration of the project.
CBAs ensure wage predictability and eliminate the risk of work stoppages. In addition, investments in worker safety and training are proven to increase productivity. CBAs also enjoy increased transparency and accountability, because these provisions are known.
Unless provisions are made that establish provisions for local hiring and union wages, unscrupulous contractors could hire workers from outside of B.C. and perhaps even outside of Canada, as we saw with construction of the Canada Line. In that case, workers were brought in from Latin America and paid $3.89 per hour. Even at Site C, 20 per cent of workers are not from B.C. Preference for hiring should be given to qualified local workers first, at a salary that allows them to support their families and invest in their own community.
Hiring locally means the investment in infrastructure stays in the community, which provides a community benefit to the local economy and revitalizes job creation. Local workers are proud to build their own community.
BC is facing a skilled trades shortage and will need to hire 12,000 new apprentices by 2021. CBAs that include worker apprenticeship ratios help meet that need, while leaving a legacy of workforce experience and employability.
Every project is different. However, research indicates that CBAs are actually less expensive. They are subject to strict timelines and they prohibit work stoppages that might otherwise cause delays. In addition, when qualified local workers are given preference, tax revenue stays in the local community. Here is a snapshot of some high-profile infrastructure projects built without CBAs, which have never been used in B.C.
- The Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre, which was initially built under a public-private partnership (PPP) before it failed, went almost $400 million over its original $495 million budget.
- The Port Mann Bridge replacement cost $2.974 billion, which was $572 million more than the original estimate.
- The roof on BC Place Stadium was budgeted at $100-$150 million and came in at $563 million.
- Site C was budgeted at $8.335 billion and will cost in excess of $10 billion.
As previously stated, CBAs do not necessarily cost more. However, even if they have a greater cost on the face, they abide community interests, such as opportunities for qualified local workers, Indigenous groups, women in trades and apprentices. In addition, hiring local workers means tax dollars stay in the community, and the community is richer through a legacy of education and experience.
Only qualified workers would be hired. However, among those qualified workers, there would be provisions for hiring women in trades and Indigenous workers, both of whom are currently underrepresented in the trades. This will allow B.C. to meet its commitment to address the looming skilled trades shortage, while providing opportunities for groups who have traditionally not accessed these careers.