Skip to content

W.A.C. Bennett Dam workers speak out against Site C labour approach

Some workers who helped build the W.A.C. Bennett Dam in Northeast B.C. in the 1960s are critical of the government’s current labour approach for the Site C dam.

Some workers who helped build the W.A.C. Bennett Dam in Northeast B.C. in the 1960s are critical of the government’s current labour approach for the Site C dam.

BC Hydro and the government are facing a lawsuit from the BC Building  Trades organization, a group that represents labour organizations, over how workers could be hired for the project. The B.C. government wants an “open site” model, where the workers do not have to join a union to work there.

The union has offered a new Construction Partnership Model, which would utilize both union and non-union labour, but under uniform wages and a different management model than the open site plan the B.C. government wants to use.

Last week, labourers who helped build the W.A.C. Bennett Dam in the 1960s spoke in favour of using the labour groups model for the current Site C project.

Jack Whittaker, a 74-year-old union member who was involved in building the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, called the government’s current labour plan “foolish.”

“They are going to escalate that job. They are going to extend the time frame,” he said. “They are saying 10 years. They’ll be lucky to do it in 15 years if they do it open shop because it will be chaos.”

Wayne Foot, 78, echoed the sentiment.

Foot was superintendent of 100 iron workers hired to build the W.A.C. Bennett Dam.

“It was hard, really hard work underground,” he said. “They had inspectors around us constantly.”

Even so, the safety conditions were not as good back then as they once were.  Foot said that as iron workers, they were allowed to “ride the hook on the crane.” In those cases, they would go up or down from great heights by hanging onto a crane as it went up or down.

In a letter to BC Building Trades, Premier Christy Clark wrote “an open site model will allow these companies to take full advantage of the economic opportunities provided by Site C without imposing restrictions that would limit their ability to grow, such as dictating specific union affiliations for the additional workers they may need to fulfill Site C contracts.”  

reporter@ahnfsj.ca