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Premier steps in after trade council sues BC Hydro

The Site C hydroelectric project planned for construction on the Peace River is the largest public infrastructure project in the history of the province. When complete, the $8 billion endeavor is expected to provide clean, affordable power to people in B.C. for more than 100 years. Construction on the site is expected to commence in summer 2015, providing about 10,000 construction jobs.

Since 1963, BC Hydro has used labour agreements ensuring that union members didn't strike or lock out. If you were a non-union contractor, then you could bid on the work, but workers had to belong to a union. For this project, however, BC Hydro tried to implement a different labour model -- an open-shop format -- that allowed for contractors to hire non-union workers, and the unions would not be allowed to organize those workers.

According to BC Hydro, this plan would give contractors greater access to skilled labourers.

However, the federal Charter of Rights protects workers' right to join a union, and the BC and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council recently sued BC Hydro, stating that the Crown's corporation has no right to contractually prohibit a worker from joining a union.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Premier Christy Clark publicly reprimanded BC Hydro managers, saying that they went too far with the anti-union policy. Hydro's executive director was also instructed to make the necessary contractual changes to avoid violating workers' Charter rights.

An article in The Globe and Mail has more on BC Hydro's labour agenda.

Additionally, the hydro trade industry publication HydroWorld.com provides details on the Site C project itself.

If you would like to learn more about workers' rights in B.C. and throughout Canada, then Overholt Law's labour relations overview is a good place to start.

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