Union leaders meet with Premier Christy Clark at cabinet office in Vancouver Monday.

B.C. unions pledge skills partnership

Construction unions accept olive branch from Clark over their role in skills training and apprenticeships

Construction union leaders emerged from a meeting with Premier Christy Clark Monday with a deal to work as “equal partners” on trades training for liquefied natural gas and other industrial development.

B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair and Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the B.C. and Yukon Building and Construction Trades Council, said they want to put political differences with the B.C. Liberal government behind them.

“During the course of the election campaign, Christy Clark was the only leader who wore a hardhat,” Sigurdson told reporters after a meeting at Clark’s Vancouver office. “And I can assure you that what I’m trying to do is put a couple of union stickers on there.”

Sinclair, more familiar with speaking at protest rallies against the government, said skills training is in a “crisis” that needs cooperation.

“It’s obvious the LNG is a critical part of our future,” Sinclair said. “It’s not the only part where skill shortages exist. The mining industry, the forest industry, the other energy industries, and many other places require skilled trades.”

Clark said a committee representing government, employers and unions has a target of Sept. 30 to formalize a plan for increased trades training.

Skills training was a major focus of the spring election campaign, with NDP leader Adrian Dix promising to return unions to a partnership he said was left out by the government’s Industry Training Authority.

Since winning a majority government, Clark has promised to review many functions of the B.C. government, including the structure of the Industry Training Authority.