The cost to construct the Pattullo Bridge replacement could increase by as much as $100 million because of the BC NDP provincial government’s new rules relating to mandating union wages for major provincial infrastructure projects.
The Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) announced earlier this month is expected to increase the project’s cost by 7%, according to the Vancouver Sun. This is because construction crews will automatically receive 2% annual wage increases during the term of employment throughout the six-year construction timeline.
When the provincial government said it was taking over the project from TransLink, it gave the new bridge a budget of $1.4 billion, but it claims this budget already accounts for the framework of the CBA.
Elements of the CBA cover hiring practices, working conditions, and wages, with the ratio of apprentices to journey-persons set at 25%, and priority hiring for locals, women, and Indigenous people.
The framework of the CBA not only covers the Pattullo Bridge project, but it also enforces practice policies on the widening of the Trans-Canada Highway between Kamloops and Alberta.
A schedule of wage rate increases are outlined in detail for all types of labour required to complete construction.
“Salad/sandwich person” culinary workers that provide meals for workers, for instance, will earn $26.60 per hour, and this increases to $27.13 in 2019, $27.67 in 2020, $28.22 in 2021, $28.78 in 2022, $29.36 in 2023, and $29.49 in 2024. Their compensation also includes benefits, starting at $6.77 in 2018 and rising to $7.63 by 2024.
“Hiring local people means growing local economies and building thriving communities across the province. We are increasing the participation of women, Indigenous workers and apprentices, to help them support their families and further their career path,” said Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, in a release on Thursday.
“This agreement will ensure every worker will be treated fairly, paid good wages and receive benefits for their work, and the no-strike clause provides stability to the project. That’s a good deal for taxpayers and it helps ensure projects get completed on time and on budget.”
Construction on the new four-lane bridge is expected to begin next year for an opening in 2023. The existing 1937-built bridge will be demolished shortly after the opening in 2024.
The procurement phase for the project began this month.