Sketch of new Pattullo Bridge, which is to be build upstream of the existing 80-year-old span. (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)

Pattullo Bridge project budget unchanged as bids come in

Builders wary about union-only rules, contractor group says

The B.C. NDP government’s second project under union-only public construction rules is receiving bids from general contractors, but the Pattullo Bridge replacement budget has not jumped like the first one did.

The $1.3 billion replacement of the bridge linking Surrey and New Westminster is scheduled to start by the end of 2019 and be completed in 2023. Built north of the existing 80-year-old structure, the new bridge will still have four vehicle lanes, plus pedestrian and bike lanes and a new off-ramp to Highway 17, the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

The new “community benefits agreement” requiring project workers to join one of 19 building trades unions adds seven per cent to the cost, or about $100 million, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said when the requirements were announced.

“There has been no change to the project budget of $1.377 billion,” the ministry said in a statement this week. “The Pattullo Bridge replacement project is currently in the request for proposals stage of procurement, which is confidential and ongoing.”

The first project, four-laning a section of the Trans-Canada Highway near Revelstoke, saw a 35 per cent jump in costs when the contract was awarded in May. The ministry attributed to the increase to “a shortage of skilled trades” that pushed up labour costs, plus increases in steel and asphalt costs.

RELATED: Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada four-laning project

RELATED: Vancouver Island interchange project completion delayed

Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, said some members of his group are considering bids but are reluctant to impose traditional union rules on their workforce. He expects the restrictions to reduce the number of bidders and push up costs beyond the $100 million predicted, as non-union and open-shop companies take a pass.

Going through a union hiring hall means companies lose the ability to choose workers, and efficiencies are also lost, de Jong said.

“A labourer can never do anything that resembles carpentry, a carpenter can never do anything that resembles truck driving,” he said. “They all have to stay in their own jurisdiction, and that adds a lot of money and complication to how you design work.”

Non-union companies can hire direct, and those affiliated with independent unions such as the Christian Labour Association of Canada can hire by name rather than union seniority, allowing them to keep the same team together from one job to the next.

“That’s the secret sauce for a construction company, the power of their workforce asset,” de Jong said.

The NDP government moved the Pattullo Bridge replacement ahead of a proposed replacement for the George Massey tunnel linking Richmond and Delta. The ministry is studying whether a replacement tunnel is a feasible replacement for the congested passage under the Fraser River.

Like the tunnel, the aging Pattullo is vulnerable to a ship strike or moderate earthquake, with narrow lanes and supports that have seen decades of river erosion.

The government says the new public construction rules will result in more local hiring and use of apprentices. The Independent Contractors and Business Association cites statistics from the government’s Industry Training Authority showing three out of four apprentices are sponsored by open-shop companies, not building trades unions that run their own training facilities.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Court orders Hope-area First Nation council to accept long-contested memberships

Federal judge rules Peters Band Council acted “irrationally, unreasonably” in rejecting applications

Motorists were ‘driving like their own Indy 500’ before fatal Abbotsford crash, court hears

Family member declares defence request for 90-day jail sentence a ‘joke’

SD 78 approves budget for 2019-2020

No changes to the bottom line, unanimous approval

Chilliwack biologist to speak on climate change at Green Party AGM

Dr. Carin Bondar is an author, adjunct professor and an explorer who has discovered new species

B.C. GAMES: Agassiz speed skater breaks through top 10 three times

Mya Onos competed with top speed skaters in province

VIDEO: Feds warned agricultural sector near ‘tipping point’ due to blockades

Canadian Federation of Agriculture points to lack of propane and feed due to Coastal GasLink dispute

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Seven arrested at blocked rail line in northern B.C., police say

But a Gitxsan hereditary chief says 14 were arrested, as fight over natural gas pipeline continues

Hospital parking fees needed, but changes to payment system possible, health minister says

B.C. health minister Adrian Dix says hospital parking doesn’t need to be so stressful

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Murder suspect arrested after allegedly throwing rocks at cars near Golden Ears Bridge

Ridge Meadows RCMP arrest man with Canada-wide warrant for murder charge out of Edmonton

IHOP to host seventh annual National Pancake Day

IHOP will be offering free short-stack pancakes in support of BC Children’s Hospital on Tuesday

Do you talk to your spouse about money? 42% of Canadians don’t, poll suggests

Politics, sex, religion top list of taboo subjects for Canadians

Most Read