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June 19, 2009

Local Purchasing

British Columbia Steel union calls for local fabrication on multi-year stadium project

The union representing workers in B.C.’s steel fabrication industry wants the contract to build the new retractable roof at B.C. Place stadium to be awarded to a local company.

“The decision to award the contract is pending and we hope to influence decision makers to give consideration to the local market,” said Ironworkers Local 712 business manager Rene Watteel.

“Logic tells us there are four bidders and it’s an open bid that will go to the lowest bidder. If local contractors win the contract, the fabrication will be done here. If we are not the lowest bidder, there should still be consideration for fabricators here.”

Ironworkers Local 712 and the B.C. Federation of Labour has sounded an urgent warning about the possible loss of 150 direct and hundreds more indirect jobs, if a major contract for part of the new $365 million retractable roof at BC Place is awarded outside B.C.

“We don’t work on site,” said Watteel. ‘Our work is done in a plant, which can be done in various places in the world. For, example the steel fabrication work for the Golden Ears Bridge was done in China. We hope this has not set a precedent for other major public works projects.”

Four bidders are on the shortlist: Burnaby-based George Third & Son; Delta-based Canron Western Constructors; Ontario-based Walters Group; and Quebec-based Canam Group.

The steel fabrication involves building component parts for the retractable roof and would employ about 150 shop fabricators and erectors with about two years of work.

“BC’s steel fabrication industry can compete fairly with anyone, if we have a level playing field and if the advantages of keeping work at home here in B.C. are considered,” said Watteel. “But if the value of using public tax dollars to employ B.C. workers and B.C. companies, who pay B.C. taxes and spend their money in this province doesn’t matter, I’m very worried these jobs could all be lost.”

According to David Podmore, chairman of the B.C. Pavilion Corporation (PavCo), the province will benefit from the construction. However, some of the larger components can’t be produced locally.

“There is a substantial amount of this work that is committed to B.C. and a lot of jobs will be created,” he said.

“The installation of the roof will all be done with local labour. But, a certain amount of this work can’t be done in B.C.”

Podmore said the cable for the roof is special and is only produced in two or three places in the world. The castings that fit the cable to the steel are large and specialized, and are not produced locally.

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