Traditionally, construction unions in B.C. have defended the use of subcontracting and non-affiliation clauses as a means of jobsite control. These restrictions were recently challenged by a Chilliwack construction firm, J.C. Kerkhoff and Son Construction Ltd., which had been awarded the contract to build the new $28 million courthouse in Kamloops, B.C.
This company informed the B.C. and Yukon Building Trades Council that union subcontractors would be hired only if the Council would agree that its member unions would work alongside of non-union firms. This would have represented a major reversal of long-standing practice in B.C., and the Council refused. In response Kerkhoff stated that he was hiring only non-union tradesmen in order to avoid the kind of labour disputes that have closed down other building projects in the province.
B.C.’s Minister of Labour, Mr. Bob McClelland, is reportedly considering changes in the B.C. Labour Code. Commenting on the need for change, Les Bewley in his Vancouver Sun column of February 8, 1983, wrote that the union’s right to exist and freely organize and bargain is undeniable, “But there is a considerable common nagging body of evidence that B.C.’s labour laws as they now exist do not promote freedom, but rather coercion, threats, and extortion by unions, upon both union members and others.” There is no doubt that present monopoly union practices, especially in the construction industry, cry out for reforms that will respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all workers.