Backgrounder #1  

The context of Building Trades bargaining in BC

Bargaining in BC’s construction industry occurs between two organizations; Construction Labour Relations Association which represents the construction contractors who have signed collective agreements, and the Bargaining Council of British Columbia Building Trades Unions representing the 14 construction craft unions.

The Bargaining Council represents more than 35,000 construction workers in BC. It negotiates on their behalf, and any agreement must be ratified by the membership.

The construction agreement – called the Standard Agreement – applies to both Industrial and Commercial/Institutional work, often referred to as the ICI sector.

Bargaining in construction is very complex. Issues common to all unions are negotiated at the Main Table where all unions are represented, and each trade union bargains separately at Trade Tables on issues which affect their trade.

The current Standard Agreement expired on April 30, 2004 but continues in full force and effect until a new agreement is negotiated and ratified.

On May 5, 2004 the Bargaining Council gave notice to CLRA that we were ready to begin bargaining. 

On June 30, 2004 the Bargaining Council met with CLRA to begin the bargaining process.  The Bargaining Council provided a full package of Main Table and Trade Table proposals to CLRA at that time.  CLRA would not agree to provide a package of proposals to the Bargaining Council at that time. CLRA wanted the Bargaining Council to agree to the term of the agreement prior to bargaining; and they wanted main table negotiations to go first.

The Bargaining Council was forced ask the Labour Relations Board to order CLRA to the bargaining table.  The LRB has had to issue six decisions in the past year to get bargaining going.  Among their decisions:

- CLRA was ordered to provide a full package of proposals;

- There will be no pre-conditions to bargaining such as negotiating the term of the agreement first, as demanded by CLRA;

- Trade Table talks will begin first, as argued by the Bargaining Council;

- CLRA must begin to bargain immediately.

Finally, on June 13, 2005 -- after 14 months of delays – CLRA has now  provided full package proposals to the Bargaining Council. The Bargaining Council has tabled an amended package of proposals.

Craft unions began meeting with CLRA at Trade Tables in mid-June to begin the bargaining process.

CLRA’s proposals ask for concessions, and do not reflect the reality of today’s construction marketplace.  The Bargaining Council and affiliate union proposals demand wage increases as well as language changes.