Albertans working on Prince George pool project, labour rep says

·3 min read

A Prince George labour representative is raising alarm bells after discovering the contractor is employing workers from out of province on the new Four Seasons Pool project.

Mike Andrews of the B.C. Regional Council of Carpenters said he walked into the lunchroom across from the site earlier this month and asked if any of the eight he saw there are from B.C.

"And the guys laughed. They're like 'no,' all from Alberta," Andrews said.

Andrews said the superintendent told him there were two local people working as labourers on the job but they have since been laid off.

"The superintendent was not happy I was there, I just walked in," Andrews said. "That's something that we do."

Andrews said there are plenty of qualified local carpenters who could do the work on what is a taxpayer-funded project.

"As a Prince George taxpayer, you would hope that these projects and the money produced by these projects would stay in our community," Andrews said. "And I find it upsetting that our leaders in the community aren't making sure that this happens."

Andrews said guaranteeing local labour is used could easily have been achieved through a project labour agreement and could still have the work done at a comparable price because there would be no travel and accommodation costs.

"We have the talent here in Prince George, no doubt about it," Andrews said. "There is no reason why they needed to bring in an outside labour force."

Andrews also questioned the wisdom of bringing in out-of-province workers during a pandemic and noted the provincial health officer has ordered they should be here only for "essential reasons."

"I understand contractors need to rely on key employees within supervisory or management roles," Andrews also said. "However, local tradespersons and apprentices should be sought and offered opportunities that in turn benefit local businesses and our community."

Edmonton-based Chandos Construction is overseeing construction of the pool, a $35.75-million project for which the city has $10 million in provincial and federal grants with the rest to be borrowed.

In a statement, city spokesman Mike Kellett said that, to date, Chandos has awarded 15 trade contracts with nine worth more than $11 million combined going to local contractors. Of the six remaining contracts awarded, he said only one was bid on by a local contractor.

In an emailed response, WorkSafeBC spokesperson Ivy Yuen said contractors do not need to get clearance from the agency to bring in out-of-province workers but must have a COVID-19 safety plan in place.

"When an employer has workers that travel regularly, including workers who cross provincial borders to go to work or who regularly move between workplaces, that employer should have provisions in their COVID-19 safety plan to assess the risk," Yuen said. "This may include monitoring the health of those workers and mitigating the risk of exposure to other worker."

Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen