Com­mu­nity Ben­e­fit Agree­ments un­fair

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - OPINION -

Com­mu­nity Ben­e­fit Agree­ments (also known as Pro­ject Labour Agree­ments — PLAs) are an idea whose time has passed, so Merit took no­tice of the trial bal­loon floated by the NDP op­po­si­tion to im­pose them on gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment here in Saskatchewan. These agree­ments man­date ei­ther part or all of pub­licly-funded projects be awarded only to union-af­fil­i­ated con­trac­tors.

A re­cent study pub­lished by Car­dus shows that re­strict­ing who can and can­not de­liver pub­lic pro­cure­ment drives the costs up and length­ens the time for pro­ject com­ple­tion. With higher costs and longer time pe­ri­ods this means that only the largest cor­po­ra­tions, of­ten for­eign-owned, can com­pete. It also means that tax­pay­ers wind up pay­ing more for in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices.

In prac­tice closed ten­der­ing means that open shop con­trac­tors, or 85 per cent of con­trac­tors in Saskatchewan, would be ex­cluded from pub­lic projects. Where’s the com­mu­nity ben­e­fit in closing the door on al­most nine out of 10 work­ers, con­trac­tors and sup­pli­ers? Open shop con­trac­tors are the small, lo­cally owned and op­er­ated com­pa­nies that hire lo­cal peo­ple and buy lo­cal goods. You can’t pro­vide much more ben­e­fit to the com­mu­nity than that.

Merit is not say­ing that union-af­fil­i­ated con­trac­tors should be pre­vented from bid­ding on projects. That would be just as un­fair and un­rea­son­able as ex­clud­ing open shop em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees.

By keep­ing pub­lic pro­cure­ment open to all qual­i­fied bid­ders tax­pay­ers save money, lo­cal em­ploy­ment is op­ti­mized, and the en­tire com­mu­nity ben­e­fits, not just 15 per cent of it. Af­ter all, it’s only fair.

Karen Low, pres­i­dent Merit Con­trac­tors As­so­ci­a­tion of Saskatchewan

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