Govt needs to sharpen job training

Skilled labour agreements needed in northwestern BC

Dear Sir:

I was taken aback by the spin taken by the province in hiring a so-called jobs czar to identify local workers for projects in the northwest.

How much better if this money had gone to Northwest Community College for actual training and education and the province had looked at time tested models to achieve these goals.

In effect, all the province is doing is assuming another private cost otherwise borne by the corporate sector – that of recruitment.

As a person who spent 15 years in the northwest, mostly working in construction, the lack of thought makes me shake my head.

How much better it would have been to begin with if the province had directed BC Hydro to enter into a project agreement on the transmission line project with construction unions.

This would include set and verifiable levels of local, minority, gender equal and aboriginal hiring with established apprenticeship requirements. After all of the speculating of raising people on assistance by shipping them north, the province could also have looked to another private sector programme already shown to work.

Under project agreements, these goals have been met as shown on the Island Highway and in dam construction.

Under a private sector agreement on the original GM Place construction, the Bladerunners programme specifically addressed the training of disadvantaged youth.

What the jobs czar cannot do and a project agreement would do is provide written goals and requirements in the first instance and both security and mobility in the longer term for the workers themselves.

It also would guarantee that there will be a core workforce that is competent, efficient and from the local area and then British Columbia.

Mind you, this provincial government has never paid much mind to the needs of BC workers or taxpayers in their planning. One need look only to major projects on the lower mainland.

Although touted as on budget, the BC Place roof and Port Mann Bridge are many times more than the original estimates.

It is easy to be on budget when that budget is inflated dramatically. You can also see how jobs were filled – many times the vehicle lots for both Port Mann and Golden Ears had many many more cars and trucks with out-of-province licences that from B.C.

Wages, benefits and conditions were suppressed on the convention centre, and Port Mann thanks to a sweetheart deal with a group called the Christian Labour Association that masquerades as a union.

Already, changes in the financing of the transmission line have shifted cost to the BC Hydro ratepayer from the corporate sector. Remember how the mining companies were once to be contributors.

Now they sit back and await power to be delivered at rates already below those charged residential customers.

On training, one wonders how the jobs czar will be of any use. Tradespeople take years to train, not weeks or months. The apprenticeship system in B.C. has already been undermined through changes introduced early in the Campbell years.

Now a joint training facility for linesman, the only one in B.C., is closing thanks to yet another provincial direction.

Waste and lack of consideration for the security and mobility of workers is the result of foolish moves taken simply because the Liberals have a visceral hatred for democratic workers’ organizations. They play politics, corporations profit and both workers and ratepayers pay the bills.

Paul Johnston,


Roberts Creek, BC