What is the Community Benefits Agreement and what does it do?
BC’s Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is a collective agreement applied to multiple major infrastructure projects in the province. For example, the Broadway Subway, the new Pattullo Bridge, and the upcoming BCIT Trades and Technology Complex are all CBA projects, among others. The CBA supports construction workers by diversifying the skilled trades labour pool and by creating more welcoming and respectful job sites.
The CBA is a 2018 agreement between a provincial Crown corporation, BC Infrastructure Benefits (BCIB), and the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council (AIRCC). The AIRCC is an umbrella organization made up of 19 construction unions. Together, these two organizations work with contractors to supply the tradespeople for CBA projects.
The CBA model promotes local and equity hiring, apprenticeship training, and a safer and more inclusive jobsite culture for workers. When the collective agreement was written, the AIRCC gave up seniority to make way for Priority Hiring, a new hiring mechanism designed to bring new workers into the industry and to provide them with consistent work.
Priority Hiring means qualified Indigenous, local, and underrepresented workers get priority access to jobs. That means Indigenous workers, women, 2SLGBTQ+, people of colour, new Canadians, and people with disabilities can get jobs they’re qualified for, without the pressure of overcoming possible biases.
Broadway Subway Project
This CBA project is an extension of Vancouver SkyTrain’s Millennium Line West from VCC-Clark Station to Broadway and Arbutus streets. This 5.7-kilometre extension involves adding six new underground stations.
Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project
The completed $1.45-billion replacement of the hospital in the North Cowichan municipality of Vancouver Island will offer 204 inpatient beds, seven operating rooms, improved emergency department capacity, and additional space for diagnostic imaging and outpatient services to cater to the local population.
Future CBA Projects
The provincial government has announced additional projects to be built under the CBA, including the new BCIT Trades and Technology Complex in Burnaby and the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project, which will extend the Vancouver SkyTrain’s Expo Line 16 kilometres to improve regional transit services.
Advantages of the Community Benefits Agreement
The CBA offers several benefits for tradespeople and local communities. Prioritizing the hiring of local residents (versus hiring temporary foreign workers, a common practice in the construction industry) ensures that tax dollars are reinvested in local communities, fosters a skilled local workforce and ensures a legacy of employability for local residents, and helps address the current and projected shortage of tradespeople.
As aforementioned, the CBA prioritizes the hiring of equity-seeking tradespeople, including women and Indigenous peoples. Tradespeople and apprentices working under the Community Benefits Agreement receive union wages and benefits that ensure a favourable quality of life.
Given the significance of the projects themselves and the exciting model under which they’re carried out, we look forward to both helping deliver CBA projects and the jobs they will provide for our members for years to come.