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New ICBA chair aims for national influence

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by Kevin Hanson

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) is a leading association within B.C.’s most dynamic industry–so it seems appropriate that its new board chair should identify growth as a key theme for his two-year term.
Bob Fairbank
Bob Fairbank

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) is a leading association within B.C.’s most dynamic industry–so it seems appropriate that its new board chair should identify growth as a key theme for his two-year term.

Bob Fairbank, COO at Eagle West Cranes Inc., said that ICBA board and staff are particularly determined to target ongoing membership growth.

Another key priority is growth in influence at the national level, through tighter collaboration with sister associations in Alberta and across Canada.

Fairbank has served as an ICBA board member since 1999 and he assumed his new duties as chair for 2008.

“One key goal is to cross the 1,000-member threshold no later than 2010,” Fairbank said.

With membership having grown steadily in recent years, and already standing at a little over 900, he said that he’s confident this will be achieved.

ICBA’s recently improved employee benefit plans – including the Construction Industry’s Benefit Plan and B.C. Small Business Benefit Plan – have increased the services to members in the area of human resources.

In recent years the association has added apprenticeship bursaries to its benefit plan mix.

“We have made a commitment as an association to invest directly in the future of our skilled workforce through benefits, the apprenticeship support program, our training courses and the numerous awards and bursaries that we give out,” he said.

Continuing to grow its membership will further augment, what Fairbanks said is the ICBA’s profile as an advocate on behalf of open shop construction and free enterprise generally.

“We’re edging towards the provincial election cycle and we will certainly be maintaining the active advocacy that’s made ICBA one of the most respected voices in this province’s public policy debates,” Fairbank said.

He added that he and his fellow board members remain pleased with the performance of the current provincial government and its efforts to ensure a level playing field for unionized and non-unionized construction firms.

Fairbank said that the ICBA will continue to add its voice to those supporting key government initiatives such as the Gateway program and skills development.

At the same time, he said, there will be no shyness about calling for further improvements in areas including labour-relations policy and land-use planning.

He also said that he foresees a larger role for the ICBA and its counterparts in other provinces on the national stage.

The boards of the ICBA and the Merit Contractors Association of Alberta have both identified a strategic interest in increased and more formalized collaboration with all open-shop associations across Canada.

There has been progress with the formation of a partnership in the employee benefits plans that the two associations operate.

This partnership will ensure the continuation of the same quality of coverage for members, Fairbank said, while achieving greater economies of scale for both plans.

“We’ve spoken out on national issues that impact our industry, but open shop construction doesn’t have a strong enough presence in Ottawa,” Fairbank said.

“We need to ensure that all levels of government understand the seriousness of the human resource and demographic challenges facing the construction industry and work to improve their current policies and processes.”

Another key issue he identified, with relevance at both the provincial and federal levels, is ensuring that governments make adequate commitments to address the serious infrastructure deficit that exists across the country.

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