Community Benefit Agreements unfair
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