Waneta Expansion Project construction taps into local labour market

Local hiring practices at the Waneta Expansion Project have meant a Christmas at home for 170 families in the Greater Trail area.

Local hiring practices at the Waneta Expansion Project have meant a Christmas at home for 170 families in the Greater Trail area.

An informal survey by the local labourer’s union of approximately 100 union workers (out of 200 total) employed at the Waneta project determined 25 per cent of the workers (50) moved back to the West Kootenay or re-located to the area to work on the project.

As well, it was found that 60 per cent (120) were able to remain in the region — within a 100-kilometre radius of the project — with their families while working on the project.

One of the hallmarks of the deal signed on the project — amongst Fortis Inc., Columbia Power Corporation and Columbia Basin Trust — was a local workforce requirement of 80 per cent, said Audrey Repin, spokesperson for the Waneta Expansion Project.

“As you can appreciate, a lot of people in the trades do have to leave town often to take their tools up north, or Alberta or wherever that may be, and now they got to come home,” she said.

Hiring for the project is done through Columbia Hydro Constructors Ltd. (CHC) under the terms and conditions of a collective agreement with the Allied Hydro Council of BC.

Under this agreement, hiring preference is given to local residents — living within 100 km. of the project — and members of equity employment groups.

“If they are not here, they are not here, but the collective agreement still encourages local hiring,” she said. “But when you do have an agreement on a project like this, it does help because that is where they go first.”

The contractor, SNC-Lavalin Inc., has announced they expect construction activities to slow down over the holidays to give workers a chance to celebrate the holiday season.  There is also more hiring left to come, with another 200 people expected to be hired as the project moves into its second and third years.