BRITISH COLUMBIA – Our annual ICBA Wage and Benefits Survey reliably illustrates the state of the BC construction industry – this year’s results are no exception.
The relative health of the industry is remarkable, and a testament to how effectively construction employers and workers have adapted and managed through the COVID-19 pandemic. There are nevertheless some warning signs in the findings.
The percentage of BC contractors expecting growth in 2021 has dropped further, after a precipitous decline in 2020. We’re far off what used to be the norm of more than half of all contractors in the province expecting growth. And the percentage of contractors who foresee a decline in business in 2021 is almost twice as large as in 2020. We’re also seeing wider regional divergences.
In northern BC and on the island, well over half of contractors expect growth this year, while only a little more than a third do in the southern interior and in the large population centres of southwestern BC.
And a strong plurality of contractors believe government is on the wrong track when dealing with their businesses. Provincial policies like discriminatory treatment of contractors who don’t sign on with the building trades unions, combined with the renewed threat of a skewed labour relations code, are among the factors driving this finding.
Still, the overall outlook is relatively healthy. Though moderated, our sector’s growth expectations are exceptional under current circumstances. Skilled construction labour remains in high demand, and already competitive wages are still edging up.
While 2020 pay increases fell to about the rate of inflation, our members expect a rebound in 2021, with workers seeing closer-to-typical 3.5 per cent wage growth.
On key policy files we’ll continue our efforts this year to remove and prevent policy-based roadblocks to success – but construction is clearly poised to be a powerful driver of BC’s post-pandemic recovery.