August 9, 2018 1:50 pm

Majority of B.C. supports NDP-union construction deal, but just 25% familiar with it: Poll

WATCH: Horgan announces Patullo Bridge replacement project

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A majority of British Columbians support the NDP government’s deal with unions for building publicly funded infrastructure, according to a new poll.

The Research Co. survey was commissioned by the BC Building Trades Council, an umbrella union group.

The Horgan government announced the new Community Benefits Agreements (CBA) in July, with the first agreement being signed in connection with the $1.4-billion Pattullo Bridge replacement.

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READ MORE: B.C. government to prioritize First Nations, women, unions in public construction projects

Under the deal, local, Indigenous, female and apprentice workers will get priority on provincial projects.

It also requires all workers on the project to be unionized, and locks in union wages.

That provision doesn’t appear to have ruffled too many feathers.

According to the poll, seven in 10 respondents either “strongly” (26 per cent) or “moderately” (44 per cent) support the use of CBAs for publicly funded projects.

Sixteen per cent said they were opposed, while a further 13 per cent were undecided.

WATCH: Is the B.C. Community Benefits Agreement fair?

Two-thirds of respondents also said they either strongly or moderately supported CBA requirements to take on at least a quarter of workers as apprentices, while 14 per cent were opposed and 18 per cent undecided.

Support was highest among women (75 per cent) and people in southern B.C., where the Pattullo and the second announced CBA — for work on Highway 1 — are located.

However, the poll also revealed that support for CBAs may be soft. Just 26 per cent of respondents said they were familiar with Community Benefits Agreements.

WATCH: Provincial government to fund brand new Pattullo Bridge

Men, people aged 18 to 34 and people living in B.C.’s north had the greatest familiarity with CBAs.

Under the deal, B.C. is creating a new Crown corporation which will hire the project’s workers and work with unions and contractors to deploy labour and manage payroll and benefits.

The opposition BC Liberals and non-unionized construction industry have been harshly critical of CBAs, describing them as a “sweetheart deal” for unions.

The Independent Contractors and Business Association described the agreements as the NDP “paying back its trade union donors.”

READ MORE: Provincial government to fund brand new Pattullo Bridge

The BC Liberals say the agreement will add more than $100 million to the cost of building the Pattullo due to promised wage increases for workers.

Currently, fewer than 15 per cent of B.C.’s construction workers are unionized.

The Research Co. poll was conducted online from Aug. 2-5 among 800 adult British Columbians. It is considered accurate within +/- 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

— With files from Richard Zussman

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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