Construction leaders in B.C. agree that a contract awarded to EGRT Construction to build the Evergreen Line is important for infrastructure development in Metro Vancouver, but concerns are already surfacing about the use of foreign workers on the project.
“The continued investment in infrastructure development is crucial to B.C., which is recognized by the provincial and federal governments,” said Philip Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.
“This transportation project is a springboard for further development around stations, which is an added benefit. So, this is certainly good news for the construction industry and the people of the Lower Mainland.”
The B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced on Jan. 29 that EGRT Construction, a consortium led by SNC-Lavalin, has been awarded an $889 million contract to design, build and finance the Evergreen Line.
The consortium includes Graham Building Services, International Bridge Technologies Inc., Jacobs Associates Canada Corporation, Rizzani de Eccher Inc., SELI Canada Inc., SNC-Lavalin Constructors (Pacific) Inc., SNC-Lavalin Constructors (Western) Inc. and MMM Group Ltd.
The $1.4 billion project will link the cities of Burnaby, Port Moody and Coquitlam with an 11-kilometre advanced light rapid transit line.
It will connect Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby and Douglas College in Coquitlam.
The project involves the construction of elevated and at-grade guideways, a two-kilometre tunnel, seven stations, power substations, train operating systems and parking facilities, as well as a vehicle-storage and light maintenance facility.
“The expansion of the transportation system in the Lower Mainland is crucial, so we want to make sure we provide contractors with the right people,” said B.C. Building Trades council chair Lee Loftus.
“We think we have the complete skill sets to do the Evergreen Line because we have done this kind of work before on the Millennium Line. We want our skilled people involved.”
Loftus hasn’t been in contact with the management team for the project, but he is looking forward to talking to them about sourcing labour for the project.
“The SELI Group is a partner in this and they are the ones who put together the project labour agreement for the Canada Line,” said Loftus.
“They brought in temporary foreign workers to operate the tunnel boring machines, which subsequently led to a human rights complaint and a decision. This raises concerns because we want to have a discussion on what their plans are for the project.”
The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled in December 2008 that the builders of the Canada Line in Vancouver, SELI Canada Inc. and SNC Lavalin Constructors Inc., discriminated against a group of Latin American workers by paying them less and providing them with inferior accommodations.
The 38 temporary workers from Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador were brought in to build an underground tunnel, as part of the rapid line linking Vancouver and the Vancouver International Airport in Richmond.
The Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union launched a complaint on behalf of the foreign workers in August 2006, and the tribunal found the complaint was justified.
The tribunal ruling ordered the companies to pay each worker the difference between the salary paid to them and the salary paid to others, as well as the difference in paid expenses.
The companies were also ordered to pay $10,000 to each worker for injury to their dignity.
The union estimated that total compensation was about $2.4 million.
“This is not a battle between the unions and the contractor,” said Loftus.
“It’s a matter of how the federal temporary foreign worker program is run. We are concerned the contractor could become a victim, if they go through the current process and follow the government’s own regulations. If we can help them avoid this problem, everyone will have the opportunity to have meaningful employment.”
Major construction on the Evergreen Line is scheduled to begin in February and is expected to be completed in 2016.
The project will create 8,000 direct construction jobs.
The final early works contract for the project was awarded to Pedre Contractors Ltd. of Langley in December 2012.
The $683,000 contract was for the installation of underground power lines in Coquitlam.
The lines will provide power for construction and operation of the Evergreen Line.
Work began in early 2013 and is expected to finish in late March 2013.
The B.C. government is contributing $583 million and will also oversee construction. The Government of Canada is contributing up to $417 million. TransLink is contributing $400 million and will operate the Evergreen Line when it’s complete.