Construction sector association calls for prompt payment legislation

B.C. employers report late payment for projects amid labour shortages

Construction sector association calls for prompt payment legislation

The British Columbia Construction Association (BCCA) is calling on the provincial government to implement legislation that would ensure employers in the industry are paid on time for their projects.

Collecting payment has been a major challenge for employers in the construction industry in the province, according to a report from the association.

Currently, over three-quarters (76%) of construction employers do not have their 10% lien holdbacks released in a timely manner. And 62% report not being paid at all for work completed in the past year on at least one occasion. 

Many small companies (17%), medium-sized companies (36%) and large construction companies report having entered into a contract dispute in the past year.

“We have asked the Eby government time and time again to respect the hard-working people and small business owners of BC’s construction industry by ending payment uncertainty through Prompt Payment Legislation,” said Chris Atchison, BCCA president. 

“Construction is the province’s number one goods sector employer. To see yet another legislative cycle pass without enactment of commonsense legislation already available in other Canadian jurisdictions is shocking. What’s taking so long?”

Previously, Manitoba introduced Bill 7 to give more power to unionized workers by bringing back project labour agreements in the construction industry. The public sector construction projects (tendering) repeal act would bring back the option to require unionized workers as a condition of a tender or project labour agreement. However, it does not mean all tenders will require unionization, noted the minister.

How much do construction labourers make in BC?

The issue of not getting paid on time is especially challenging now that wages in the sector have surged, according to BCCA’s survey of 1,854 survey respondents, among whom 48% are employers & their representatives and 47% are tradespeople/labourers.

Overall, 77% of employers report increasing wages in the past year.

And the average annual wage in BC’s construction sector has climbed 21% over five years to $74,853. The current $22.11/hour rate, on average, is 25% above minimum wage. 

Meanwhile, the average wage of tradespeople with 10 or more years’ experience sits at $42.71/hour.

On top of that, the majority of workers work full-time and year-round, and report receiving overtime pay and health benefits.

Minimum wage increases in Canada took effect April 1.

Labour shortage in construction sector

Another problem that construction employers in B.C. have to face is the continuing labour shortage, according to the BCCA survey.

The industry managed to cut the projected number of job openings to 6,6000 skilled workers by 2033 from the 26,100 short-fall estimated for 2023 a decade ago.

But despite the 9% growth in the number of ICI construction companies in B.C. over the past five years (28,014), the number of tradespeople in the industry has dropped 7% during the same timeframe (167,300). 

The average company size has contracted by 15% over the previous five years to an average of 5.97 skilled trade workers.

“That a majority of workers in BC’s construction industry confirm that they would recommend a career in construction to friends and family is an encouraging sign at a time when recruitment is desperately needed,” said Atchison. 

“There is absolutely no lack of employment opportunities for anyone interested in exploring a career in construction. Today’s worksite is a much more welcoming and inclusive place than even a decade ago. That work continues; tradespeople and labourers repeatedly tell us how important positive workplace culture is to them. Everyone, including members of traditionally underrepresented groups, should feel welcome within BC’s construction industry.”

Several employers – including Tesla, McKinsey & Co. and Novartis – have previously announced layoffs.

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