Submitted By Jonathan Gaul
In May, the leadership of District Council 39 and their industry partners attended the Canadian Building Trades Conference held in Ottawa.
“We were afforded the opportunity to speak with several members of Parliament,” said DC 39 Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer Jonathan Gaul. “In speaking with our House of Commons representatives, we discussed important issues that directly affect our members and play an important role in the ability of our unionized employers to procure work.”
In 2012, the former Federal Conservative Government (voted out in the 2015 federal election) had enacted legislation repealing prevailing wage laws in Canada. “A 10-word sentence was buried in a 425-page Omnibus Budget Bill (Bill C-38) in an attempt to subvert the legislative process in Canada at the highest level,” said Gaul “This was just one example of the many attacks on labor at the time, but it resulted in the conservative government successfully repealing Canada’s Fair Wage Act.”
The Canadian Fair Wage Act, similar to the Davis-Bacon Act in the United States, protected the wages, work hours and overtime provisions for millions of construction workers working on federal and provincial government projects in Canada. “The loss of prevailing wage laws has subsequently opened the door for the non-union contractors who are often awarded government contracts solely by discounting workers wages, hours, overtime and benefits,” said Gaul. “This puts tremendous downward pressure on wages, because government contracts are often awarded on lowest-bid. It truly is a race to the bottom as lowest-bid characteristically equates to lowest-quality.”
“Our discussions with the MPs focused on alternatives to low-bid procurement, mainly procurement options that take into consideration overall community benefit; criteria such as hiring locally first, the use of skilled and qualified tradespeople, requirements to pay a fair and living wage, mandated apprentice ratios, hiring of unrepresented and under-represented groups, and other social measurables that drive economic benefit through local economies.”