Welcome to the SKCA's Blog

Note... the opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the SKCA.

December 2, 2021

Labour Challenges in the Construction Industry
Introducing the Hard-to-Fill Skills Pilot program

 
Happy December everyone! It’s hard to believe that we’ve reached the end of 2021 already. It has been another crazy year. Perhaps the best example of the challenge that the last year has been comes in looking at our industry. A year ago, our industry was hungry for work. Today, there’s enough work out there and on the way that our industry is facing an acute labour shortage. While some of us did see this coming, I don’t think any of us expected it to happen this year. 
 
Labour shortages aren’t new in construction. Many of you have been through several economic cycles like this. Me personally, I’ve just been through one. Still, there were lessons to be learned from that one cycle. Lessons that could have helped make it less likely we’d find ourselves in another cycle. Nevertheless, here we are. Again.
 
Earlier this week leaders from your five associations met at the Legislature with MLAs and Ministers to talk about the challenges facing the construction industry. We talked about supply chain issues, and we discussed the importance of construction in enabling growth and investment in other sectors, but most of the time was spent talking about workforce issues and the current and impending labour shortage. 
 
These challenges weren’t news to the MLAs. They’ve been hearing similar concerns from other industries and from construction companies in their home constituencies. The MLAs have been thinking about these issues and trying to come up with options to make sure we can train and develop a Saskatchewan-based workforce that can meet the needs of our employers in the years to come.
 
In a way, there are two challenges to address here. The first is the short-term labour crunch. How do we find enough people to do the work over the next three years? What interventions are needed to make it easier for employers during this time? The second challenge is more structural and longer-term. How do we get ourselves off the roller-coaster of labour and develop a higher baseline of steady employment within the construction industry?
 
It is almost too late to do anything about the short-term problem. You can’t train a journeyperson in the short-term, and many of our traditional sources of labour are also stressed right now. For the most part, the short-term problem is simply going to have to be addressed by market forces. A smaller labour pool will drive wages up, which will drive up project pricing, which will suppress some projects from coming to market, which will in turn alleviate some of the demand pressure on the labour side. While this will “work itself out” to some extent, it won’t happen overnight. Saskatchewan is facing a three-to-five-year labour crunch that will likely be reminiscent of the one we came out of about seven years ago.
 
One avenue for support in the short-term is immigration, and the Government of Saskatchewan just last week took a positive step in making this process easier for construction employers. Any of you that went through the previous boom would be somewhat familiar with the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP). This provincial-driven program was by far the best way for Saskatchewan employers to quickly source skilled workers from across the globe. It appears that SINP is ramping up again with the new “Hard-To-Fill Skills Pilot” program. This pilot will make it easier and faster for employers to recruit workers from overseas in targeted industries. Construction is included on this list. Thanks to the Government of Saskatchewan for responding quickly to industry demand in this area and revitalizing an essential pathway to skilled workers.
 
If you, as an employer, are interested in exploring SINP for recruitment purposes please note that it applies to both skilled workers and entry-level positions. You’ll need to demonstrate that you’ve tried to fill the position locally. Although I haven’t worked with SINP recently, when we did work with them during the last boom cycle, they were fantastic to work with. I would expect a similar experience today. Reach out to me at president@scaonline.ca and let me know if you’re thinking about engaging with SINP.
 
While the short-term pressure will be more challenging to relieve, the long-term fix is obvious. We need to do a better job of telling the story of construction and attracting Saskatchewan’s young people – especially our Indigenous youth – into careers in our industry. More importantly, we need to do this year-in and year-out, regardless of where we are in our economic cycle.
 
Your associations have called for a government-industry collaboration on this issue. We intend to strike a permanent working group with a mandate to address the long-term workforce needs of the construction industry. This working group will need to include representation from the construction industry, from our post-secondary training institutions, from our Indigenous communities, from our school systems, and from government. The existence of the working group, and its funding support, will need to survive this boom period and carry on throughout the next economic softening. This was the mistake we made last time, and we’re determined not to make it again.
 

Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association

September 9, 2021

Employer Strategies for Vaccination
Planning for the post-pandemic workplace

 
I know that many members are struggling with conflicting vaccine mandate directions from different owners. Unfortunately, to date, the Government of Saskatchewan has declined to provide direction on this issue, or to clarify the rights of site owners or employers. Effectively, the government has been clear that each workplace must make its own decisions and that this issue will be resolved in the courts. While we hope the government will change its perspective on this issue soon and provide either direction or protection for employers, in the mean time, each company is on its own. I want to encourage you to seek a legal opinion before you implement any policies in your workplace with respect to the mandating of vaccines or the disclosure of vaccine status. While a general article from a lawyer does not replace specific legal advice, this article from Miller Thomson is a great primer on this topic. This article will be featured in the upcoming issue of We Build magazine, but I wanted to share it with you now.
 
If you are facing concerns with respect to vaccine mandate or disclosure issues, please reach out to us at the associations and let us know. 

HOW TO PLAN FOR THE POST-PANDEMIC WORKPLACE: EMPLOYER STRATEGIES FOR VACCINATION
 
By Dustin Gillanders, Partner, and Carter Bezugly, Student, Miller Thomson LLP
 
On March 18, 2021, Saskatchewan became the first jurisdiction in Canada to implement a paid leave to allow an employee to take time off work to vaccinate for COVID-19. Under the amended Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2020, workers are entitled to three consecutive hours of leave during work hours to receive a vaccination. However, workers are entitled to more than three hours if the employer determines the circumstances warrant a lengthened break from work; and the employee will not lose any pay or other benefits while receiving a vaccination. An employee is entitled to this leave per dose of vaccine. 
 
The paid nature of the leave seeks to remove a barrier for workers who might otherwise be hesitant to lose paid work hours to receive their vaccine.
 
Current Law on Vaccination Policies
 
Employers across Canada have a legal obligation under occupational health and safety legislation to provide their employees with a safe workplace and to take all reasonable precautions to protect employees from receiving a work-related illness. While implementing a COVID-19 vaccination policy may be one effective way of meeting this obligation, this does not mean that a vaccination policy will be necessary or justified for every workplace. The ability to make vaccination a mandatory condition of employment depends on several factors, such as the level of risk of infection and transmission to employees or others.
 
While existing case law considers whether employers can implement mandatory flu vaccination policies within a unionized workplace, it generally arises within the healthcare and residential care industries. Additionally, this case law is also inconsistent. As such, it remains to be seen whether the courts will find these decisions applicable to other industries in the context of a global pandemic.
 
Implementing Mandatory Vaccination Policies
 
Employers who wish to implement a mandatory vaccination policy may be justified in doing so if: 
 
1. It is a necessary health and safety measure of the particular workplace.
2. It is no more intrusive than it has to be.
3. It doesn't violate employees' contractual or collective agreement rights.
4. It doesn't discriminate on any protected grounds.
 
In short, the enforceability of a mandatory vaccine policy is mainly dependent on whether the policy is reasonable in the specific workplace and employment circumstances. 
 
There are different considerations for unionized and non-unionized workplaces – each with its own set of risks. For example, unions have historically challenged mandatory vaccination policies as an unreasonable exercise of management rights and on the basis that it violates the collective agreement. In the non-union setting, employers will need to be concerned with potential constructive dismissal claims, as well as rights and obligations under human rights and privacy legislation.
 
Regarding human rights claims, a mandatory vaccination policy may be discriminatory under human rights legislation if it does not include exemptions for protected grounds, such as disability, gender, or religion. However, the employer may be able to justify a mandatory vaccination policy on the basis that it is a bona fide occupational requirement. A bona fide occupational requirement is: 
 
1. Adopted for a purpose that is rationally connected to job performance.
2. Adopted in an honest and good faith belief that the standard is necessary to fulfill a legitimate purpose.
3. Reasonably necessary to accomplish that legitimate purpose.

Even when the criteria for a bona fide occupational requirement are met, an employer must accommodate employees who refuse (or are unable) to take the vaccine based on protected human rights grounds. Otherwise, any adverse treatment based on a refusal to vaccinate could constitute a breach of human rights law.
 
Governments seem unwilling to pass legislation mandating vaccination. As such, a key challenge in implementing or enforcing a mandatory vaccination policy is that it will be difficult for an employer, outside of the healthcare context, to establish that previously existing health and safety measures are insufficient to ensure the safety of employees. 
 
Practically speaking, a mandatory vaccination policy regarding employees would be difficult to implement or enforce in Canada. 
 
Employers may wish to consider alternative policies such as requiring employees to disclose their vaccination status. Though there are still risks with this approach, employers can mitigate the risks through proper policy implementation.
 
Alternatives: Vaccination Disclosure Policy
 
Just as inquiring into employees' travel history and experience of COVID-19 symptoms have been accepted as a reasonable inquiry to ensure workplace safety, requiring disclosure of employees' COVID-19 vaccination status is likely to be considered a sensible approach as a means of ensuring workplace safety. 
 
While creating a policy requiring employees to disclose their vaccination status would mitigate potential liabilities regarding human rights law, privacy law, etc., risks on this front would still require management.
 
Employers regulated by privacy legislation must ensure they are only collecting, using or disclosing personal information (such as vaccination status) if doing so is "reasonably necessary" to manage the employment relationship. In addition, employers must provide appropriate notice to employees about what information is being collected, the purpose of the collection, who it is being collected from, who will have access, how it will be stored, and when it will be destroyed. 
 
The employer's handling of the personal medical information that forms the proof or lack of regarding an employee's vaccination status must be within the narrow purpose of conducting the employment relationship. Generally, the employer should only require the minimum amount of information possible to address reasonable workplace safety concerns. For example, employers could ask for proof of a vaccination certificate, but the employer would not keep a copy of it. 
 
Alternatives: Incentives for Employees
 
There are many steps an employer can take to encourage employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine aside from requiring employees to show proof of vaccination. As a possible alternative, employers may wish to incentivize employee vaccination.
 
An example of such an incentive could be an employer offering to cover the incidental costs of vaccination. While the vaccine is free in Canada, an employer could cover all related expenses associated with getting vaccinated, such as travel costs. There is little risk associated with this incentive.
 
Employers can offer vaccination incentives provided the incentive does not amount to punishment or adverse treatment for individuals who choose not to (or are unable to) get vaccinated based on grounds protected by human rights law. As previously mentioned, any hindrances (such as increased testing requirements for unvaccinated individuals) must be based on bona fide occupational health and safety requirements and not as a purely punitive measure for remaining non-vaccinated.
 
Regardless of the vaccination policy ultimately pursued, employers should ensure that written policies are in place to help ensure that the chosen approach is clearly communicated to employees, the procedures are consistently applied, and employees' privacy rights are protected. In addition, employers should inform employees that they will be accommodated per applicable human rights law. However, without further direction from the government, even the most prudently drafted mandatory vaccination policies may be subject to a legal challenge.
 
Our team at Miller Thomson has a reputation for providing practical, timely and responsible advice and services to our clients.  If you have any questions or need assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of our experienced lawyers. For labour and employment inquires contact Dustin Gillanders, a Partner in our Saskatoon office, at dgillanders@millerthomson.com or, for construction inquiries, contact Troy Baril, a Partner in our Saskatoon office, at tbaril@millerthomson.com.
 
Dustin Gillanders is a Partner at Miller Thomson who specializes in labour and employment, civil litigation, and debt enforcement.
 
Disclaimer:
This publication is provided as an information service and may include items reported from other sources. We do not warrant its accuracy. This information is not meant as legal opinion or advice.

May 6, 2021

Supply Chain Issues in Saskatchewan's Construction Industry




In the May 6, 2021 Vlog post, SKCA's President & CEO Mark Cooper talks about the recent issues that our industry is experiencing with regards to supply chain.
 
We are aware of the delays, shortages, and unstable pricing of in-demand supplies across the globe.
 
SKCA is meeting with Government and other industry associations to pin point the hot commodities, why, and how we can best mitigate risk for construction service providers while providing best practices for owners and designers. 
 
If you are experiencing these issues, we want to hear about it; what are your challenges? How are you combatting them? What would help you right now? Let us know at president@scaonline.ca

Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association

April 1, 2021

Saskatchewan's Prompt Payment Legislation Update




Prompt Payment was scheduled to come into force on April 1, 2021, however that will not happen now.

The Minister of Justice continues to consider the best mechanism for handling the Adjudication Authority. This Authority is a necessary component of the legislation as it will be the organization responsible for overseeing the adjudication dispute process.

As per the Minister’s direction, the SKCA submitted a proposal to create an industry-led, but arm’s length, entity to serve as the Authority. This entity, to be known as the Saskatchewan Construction Dispute Resolution Office (SCDRO) would be governed by a multi-party Governing Committee that would direct its work in accordance with the provincial regulations. Part of the proposal for the SCDRO noted that the entity was likely to lose money every year and would need some source of provincial funding to offset this loss. This idea had long been discussed with previous Ministers of Justice, but no specific dollar amount was known. Any funding proposal in front of the government right now is, understandably, getting lots of scrutiny, and so unfortunately the whole legislation is delayed while the government explores the viability of funding the SCDRO.

Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association
 
March 4, 2021

Join Us to Ask Government to Support Local Today




This month we’re asking members to engage with us to make sure that Saskatchewan construction work – designed to stimulate the local economy – goes to Saskatchewan companies wherever possible. 

ACTION – If you agree that more publicly funded work should be awarded to local contractors, use our automated letter writing tool to write your MLA today. The letter will also go to the Premier and to Minister Reiter, the Minister responsible for overseeing this work. Sending the letter will take you two minutes here: https://www.scaonline.ca/news.html?id=484

You might have seen in the news lately that our neighbouring provinces are putting pressure on the Saskatchewan Government to stop supporting Saskatchewan companies.

Let me be clear: Ordinarily, we fully support interprovincial trade and the benefits it provides to us all, but we are not living in ordinary times.

The hundreds of millions of dollars spent on infrastructure is spread throughout Saskatchewan when that work is completed using local companies, paying local taxes, and hiring local labour. This pandemic has changed the world and rocked our economy like never before. Now is the time that the Government must refocus its infrastructure investment to maximize the potential stimulus to the Saskatchewan people and our economy. 

Economists show that when $1 dollar is invested in local infrastructure there is an economic return greater than this investment. The same research clearly demonstrates that the economic return is much greater still when the investment is made through local companies. The best way for our governments to turn $1 into nearly $3 is to spend infrastructure money with local companies. New jobs, tax revenue, citizens, homes, businesses…these are all the things, and more, that we get when governments support local.

We have sent letters to every single Saskatchewan municipality and they are responding. At the very same time that governments are asking people to support local businesses, our governments must do the same. Help us to send this message by sending your letter.

In the link below this video, you can access our automated letter writing tool. Simply plug in your information, and the letter will personalize itself with your details, and send it off to your MLA, the Premier, and Minister Reiter. The more voices that government hears about supporting local, the stronger our message becomes. 

Send your letter today.

 

Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association


January 15, 2021

Hi everyone! Mark Cooper from the Saskatchewan Construction Association here. Happy New Year, and welcome back to my monthly update. 
 
In today’s update I want to recap last year’s successes, talk about our plans to serve you in 2021, and close out with an idea on how you can support our work on your behalf.
 
While 2020 was, in almost every way imaginable, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, your provincial association still managed to accomplish some big things for you:
 
  • At the height of the initial pandemic, we were there with our Expert Taskforce to answer your questions and help you navigate that scary time;


  • Our lobbying efforts and public relations campaigns with partners kept construction sites open through the whole pandemic, which has not been the case in other provinces;


  • We helped secure new government funding supports and program;


  • Prompt Payment regulations were released, and we fought off the potential exemption for the residential sector, making sure that all contractors will be protected by this most important new law; and


  • We’ve pushed a strong message of supporting local vendors. Our efforts have encouraged government to do whatever they can - within trade agreements – to support local contractors through their procurement work.

While 2020 was tough, it was still a successful year. 
 
So, what does 2021 have in store for your association as we continue to serve you?
 
  • Prompt Payment will be coming into force this year, which will make Saskatchewan only the second province in Canada with this legal protection for contractors;


  • We’re going to strengthen relationships with design consultants and public and private sector owners, to make sure that our members have access to the best and most timely information about upcoming projects, procurement plans, and how to find and win more work;


  • We’ll keep making public procurement processes better, by ensuring that you have more input into the procurement process and that more work flows to companies like yours;


  • We’re launching Saskatchewan’s first-ever online vendor engagement tool, that will enable you to connect directly with procurement officials and other contractors who you might want to bid to, and showcase your company; and


  • We’ll launch a series of virtual sessions where you will be able to hear more about future infrastructure plans and speak directly, one-on-one, with the procurement decision makers across the public and private sector.
     
Our goal for 2021 is to deliver to you the greatest value possible for your membership.
 
So If you see value in the work we do on your behalf, I’d like you to consider becoming either a Supporter or a Champion of our association this year through sponsorship.
 
Like many of your businesses, we’ve had to completely re-vamp our operations to be able to continue to do our work. We are an industry-led not-for-profit association and our purpose of building strong members, a more vibrant industry, and a better Saskatchewan is only possible because of the support of companies like yours. 
 
Details on ways that you can support the association this year through sponsorship can be found below. 
 
Thank you for taking time to consider this.
 
Wishing each of you the very best that 2021 can offer. May we all have the great pleasure of seeing each other in person soon. 
 
Until then, Take care and stay safe.

Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association

Sponsorship Opportunities


We've shaken things up a bit this year!


There are three ways you can support the SKCA in 2021...

Become a Supporter or Champion of the SKCA's Mission
Tiered sponsorship levels available here.

Get your name in front of members by supporting our virtual events
Sponsorship opportunities for sessions here.

Associate yourself with Sasaktchewan's dynamic construction industry
Sponsor Saskatchewan Construction Week here.


December 3, 2020

A Christmas Message from SKCA's President

 

Many of you may remember the Judith Viorst children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Alexander, the title character, has a really bad day and it falls to his mom to help him find perspective. It’s a great story. If Viorst were writing the book in 2020, there can be little doubt that all of us could related to Alexander.

2020 has been the year to end all years. No more please and thank you. I’m very grateful that there remains only 29 days (when I wrote this) in this Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year.

However, even the midst of all the murder hornets, COVID, economic collapse, hurricanes, wildfires, political divisiveness, mental health and addiction issues, and skyrocketing public debt – there is still more than enough light through the clouds.
 
  1. Most of us were forced to slow down this year, to re-evaluate, and to take stock of the things and people that are important to us. None of our lives will be the same;
  2. In our darkest times, our common humanity often showed itself. With neighbours checking on each other, sharing messages of love and hope, and reconnecting with family and friends even if it was in new and unusual ways; and
  3. Many parts of our over-used environment have begun to heal themselves with the receding of human intervention. The best known examples of this are the canals in Venice (a favourite place of mine), where the water transparency increased significantly with reduced boat traffic and tourism.

It is with a lot of gratitude in my heart that I look forward to what 2021 will bring. In this month’s issue of We Build magazine, which will be hitting your mailboxes just before Christmas, our theme is HOPE. We hope that some of the articles in there will inspire you and give you many reasons to hope too.

As I sign off my last blog post for 2020, I want to say thank you to each of you. As President of the SKCA it is my sincere honour and privilege to represent the many construction companies in Saskatchewan, and in particular our member companies. I know 2020 has been tough for you, for your loved ones, for your employees, and likely for your company too. Thank you for persevering. Thank you for not giving up hope. Thank you for working every day to find new ways to help Build Saskatchewan.

Stay strong, stay safe, and may 2021 bring you all the joy, laughter, proximity to loved ones, and sustained success that 2020 did not. I know 2021 will be a better year! 

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and see you soon my friends!

 

Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association
 

September 1, 2020

Now Confirmed - Saskatchewan's residential sector will not be exempt from prompt payment!


I’m so excited today to announce that due to A LOT of pressure from the Saskatchewan Construction Association, our partners in the Prompt Payment Saskatchewan coalition, and so many of our members stepping up to make calls and send letters, we can now officially say that the residential sector will NOT be exempt from Prompt Payment legislation when it comes into force on or before April 1, 2021.

This is BIG NEWS.


As you all know, Prompt Payment has been – by far and away – the #1 issue for Saskatchewan Construction Association members for at least three years. We hear about the challenges getting paid all the time from our network of members across the province. Too many contractors are spending too much time, and money, chasing payment that should come quickly and easily.

When work is completed properly, contractors shouldn’t have to fight to be paid for it.

The stories I’ve heard from owners, where they break down in tears with the stress and worry of how they’re going to pay their employees, keep their company afloat, and provide for their families – all because they’re owed money from work they’ve completed have literally broken my heart. It’s why your association has fought so hard for this legislation.

The provincial legislature unanimously passed Prompt Payment legislation in Spring 2019. For more than a year the provincial government has been working on the regulations that will guide the implementation of that legislation when it comes into force. On Friday, they published those regulations, and so now the countdown is on – on April 1, 2021, your struggle to be paid promptly for work completed will now be supported by legislation. On your behalf, we are so happy to have it introduced and passed.

For most of the time that the regulations were under consideration, the Minister responsible for the legislation – Don Morgan, Minister of Justice – was seriously considering giving an exemption to the residential sector. Of course, we, and he, heard from so many of you what a disaster that exemption would be. In the very sector where contractors are most vulnerable to late payment, an exemption would basically invalidate the whole point of the law.

I want to say a special thank you to Minister Morgan for listening and for doing the right thing. To his credit he was a man of his word in introducing the bill and getting it passed. While we didn’t agree on the amendment plan for most of the last year, he kept listening. Not just to me, but to you. When the final regulations came out on Friday, it was so exciting to see that all of the effort we all made together paid off.

I also want to say thank you to you, our members. Here at the Saskatchewan Construction Association it is our mission, our purpose, to fight for the things that matter most to our members. Sometimes during this Prompt Payment fight, our voice wasn’t enough. Sometimes we needed you to add your voice to the fight. When we needed it, you were there. Our victory in terms of both the legislation and fighting off the residential exemption is a shared one. Thank you.

So, what’s next?

With the countdown to April 1, 2021 now on, we will be working with Prompt Payment Saskatchewan and other partners to provide for the training of all industry stakeholders regarding the legislation and its implications. We need everyone within the construction supply chain, and the payment chain, to understand that the rules of the payment game are changing soon.

We will also be working to set up the Adjudication Authority. This Authority will be the place that payment disputes will be settled – using fast-moving and inexpensive adjudication processes delivered by construction-experienced adjudicators. It’s going to take a lot of work to get this group set up, and the adjudicators trained, but we’ll get on it and get it done.

Finally, we will keep working to make sure that the legislation applies to as much of the construction industry as possible. While we are extremely happy to see that there will be no exemptions for the residential sector, there are other exemptions that need to be understood and may need to repealed…

  • The mining sector is exempt – with no good reason for this exemption.

  • There is also an exemption for any of SaskPower’s electricity related work.

  • Most perplexing, there is an exemption for engineers, architects, and land surveyors.

Our engineer and architect partners were big supporters of Prompt Payment and helped contribute to the bill becoming law. It is such a shame, and a confusing one, not to see them included in the benefits.

We’ll be working to better understand these exemptions and to come up with a plan, with our partners, to eventually remove them all.

After all, does anyone seriously believe the mining companies or SaskPower can’t pay their bills in a timely manner when every other owner can – and yes, that includes their bills to engineers, architects, and land surveyors.

Anyway, today is about celebrating a big win and some big news for the construction industry. With the legislation coming in to force in seven months, we have lots of work to do. Today though, let’s celebrate a victory well earned. No exemption for the residential sector is not just good news for us, but it is good news for all of Saskatchewan – and that is indeed something to celebrate.

Thanks, and take care!

For questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to SKCA President, Mark Cooper, at president@scaonline.ca.

 

Mark Cooper, MBA, PMP

President and CEO
Saskatchewan Construction Association
 

We've Gone Digital

Since March 2020, we have begun releasing video-blogs (vlogs) from our President & CEO in place of written content.

View SKCA
 videos on our YouTube Channel here.


Associations