August 24th, 2019

Three Alberta construction unions file applications against company building Whitla Wind Farm

By COLLIN GALLANT on July 19, 2019.

NEWS FILE PHOTO
A wind turbine is seen in this undated file photo. Three Alberta construction unions have filed applications against Borea Construction, the company building portions of the Whitla Wind farm near Medicine Hat, as well as another union that recently applied to represent its workers.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com
@CollinGallant

Three Alberta construction unions have filed applications against Borea Construction, the company building portions of the Whitla Wind farm near Medicine Hat, as well as another union that recently applied to represent its workers.

The Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) asked the Alberta Labour Relations Board in late June that it become the bargaining agent for an estimated 175 workers at the site, located south of Bow Island.

A counter application by three trade unions was filed on July 8, accusing the company and the union of contravening rules in the certification process, was to be taken up by an administrative panel on Thursday in Edmonton.

CLAC officials told the News that they deny any impropriety that might be alleged, and are eager to represent construction workers with the company.

The particulars are not public available, but Paul Zarbatany, the president of the United Carpenters, Local No. 2013, said the issue revolves around Borea inviting CLAC onto the site to petition workers, while barring others.

“It’s not the same opportunities as another union, and we’d like the same thing,” said Zarbatany. “Let’s have equal access to the jobsite to talk with people and let them make their own choice about which union they want.”

The Carpenters, Ironworkers Local No. 725, and General Labourers Local No. 92 each charged that CLAC was involved in illegal workplace organizing at the site of the $325-million renewable energy project.

The Carpenters and Labourers each made application that there has been improper employer union contributions by Borea, and that CLAC has employed coercive tactics. The Ironworkers further charge Borea had improper union involvement with CLAC.

Borea officials did not respond to a request for information by the News on Thursday.

Officials with CLAC denied anything improper took place.

“We made the application after a bunch of employees on site reached out to us to represent them,” said Randy Klassen, the Calgary-based regional director for CLAC. “We’re waiting for the board to process them and hope they do quickly.”

As for the specific charged that lead to recent application by the other unions, Klassen said he had no information on the accusations or motivation.

“I have no idea what they have in mind, but I can tell you our applications were timely and employees reach out to us seeking representation from CLAC and we’d be proud to represent them,” he said.

“Any allegation against us, we deny them and don’t know why they would be made.”

CLAC represents about 27,500 workers in various sectors in Alberta, making it one of the largest private sector unions in Alberta.

Traditional labour unions are highly critical of CLAC, which bills itself as an alternative and non-confrontational association that is not aligned with the Canadian labour groups. It also says it does not support partisan political causes.

Labour unions and labour groups contend such employer friendly stances are not in the best interest of workers.

Borea Construction is a subsidiary in partnership between U.S. based Blattner Energy and Canadian infrastructure constructor Pomerleau Construction.

Three unions bringing the action in Alberta are members of the Building Trades of Alberta, a conglomeration of traditional trade unions that work on major construction projects that involve multiple trades and can be certified under multi-union contracts.

Borea officials told the News this winter that they estimated their workforce for build concrete foundations, erect tower pieces and do come site work would be about 175. They estimated as many as half that number could be hired locally.

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