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A Must-Read Defense of PLAs: “The workplace is a tradesperson’s classroom.”

Sudhir Sandhu, chief executive officer of the Manitoba Building Trades

Sudhir Sandhu, chief executive officer of the Manitoba Building Trades

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In Canada, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has staked out a position against Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), calling them “forced unionization” and suggesting they are a financial burden on the public sector. Sudhir Sandhu, the chief executive officer of the Manitoba Building Trades and Allied Hydro Council, couldn’t disagree more.

He defends PLAs in an excellent op-ed for the Winnipeg Free Press. Claims that PLAs lead to delays and inflated costs are simply not supported by the evidence, Sandhu explains:

Former premier Duff Roblin introduced project labour agreements to prevent fly-by-night contractors from bringing poorly trained and unqualified labour to critical infrastructure projects. He recognized lowest price did not mean lowest overall cost or best value.

By requiring all contractors to pay prevailing wages under one collective agreement, the selection was based on productivity and quality, not just price. We have seen ample examples of projects that experienced extreme remediation costs due to poor workmanship at the outset.

Sandhu goes on to point out that publicly funded community colleges and union-funded training centers are the only two main providers of training in the trades. He highlights the fact that the bulk of the training takes place in the field:

The workplace is a tradesperson’s classroom. Unions and their partner-contractor community help train the workforce that safely and efficiently builds Manitoba every day.

Without this training, Manitoba would lack the skilled workforce required to build essential infrastructure.

To boot, the shortsighted thinking of the anti-PLA set would ultimately burden the taxpayer with the cost of this training:

The union dues Reid denounces pay for a workforce-development system used by both the union and non-union sectors.

If the Pallister government submits to this, it will remove the incentive for unions and their private-sector business partners to continue investing in a skilled workforce essential to Manitoba’s economic prosperity, eventually leaving taxpayers on the hook.

While the details of the piece are specific to Manitoba, the themes are universal. Read the full article.


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