Building Trades workers need more from Canada’s next government
Canadians are less than one month away from going to the polls to elect our nation’s leaders for the next four years. Included in those Canadians are more than 60,000 hard-working members of 18 local unions the Building Trades of Alberta proudly represents.
The livelihood of these workers, their families and communities depend greatly on decisions made at the national level. There are several areas our next federal government must focus on to help make lives better for skilled-trades workers across Alberta, and Canada.
Support for job-creating mega projects for example. We need our government to be behind projects that get and keep Alberta’s skilled tradespeople working. Projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion are key to employing skilled-trades workers. So are others like Teck’s Frontier oilsands project north of Fort McKay and phase 2 and 3 of NWR’s Sturgeon Refinery. The work building and maintaining these mega-projects keep people in mortgage-paying jobs that support our provincial and national economies. These projects must move forward, without delay, and without political interference by our next federal government.
Support for skilled-trades training must also be a priority. Within the next decade, it’s predicted Canada will need to replace almost 250,000 skilled tradespeople as boomers in the skilled trades retire. Investment is needed in building trades’ training facilities. Support is needed to push careers in the skilled trades – including financial enticements for finishing apprenticeships – and skilled-trades careers must be better-promoted to Indigenous workers, women and other underrepresented groups.
Additionally, skilled tradesworkers who travel for work should have the same access to tax incentives as other mobile Canadian workers. A Skilled Trades Workforce Mobility program, encouraged by Canada’s Building Trades Unions, could operate as a tax deduction, tax credit or grant from within the Employment Insurance system or other ways. The current system is unfair to skilled tradespeople. Labour mobility in the skilled trades must be encouraged by our next federal government.
Finally, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program continues to expose incidents of worker exploitation and abuse. Moreover, this program has led to the deskilling of trades work, suppression of wages and lack of workplace protections for all workers. It’s also left TFWs in the trades who want to organize too intimidated to do so because of employer pressure, including with threats of deportation. All workers deserve the fairness, respect and the ability to join a union. Our future leaders must make reforming this program a priority.
Skilled tradesworkers are the backbone of our industries and economies. The work they do, from building and maintaining bridges we drive on, hospitals we get better in and homes we tuck our kids into, deserves to be valued, respected and supported by which ever party occupies the Office of the Prime Minister after Oct. 21.
Executive Director, Building Trades of Alberta