BC's Big Outsourcing Bet-Last in a 4 part series
Date: Saturday, October 22 2005
By Charles Campbell
Published: October 21, 2005
When the NDP government was in power in the 1990s, BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair was on BC Hydro's board of directors. He recalls a Hydro executive arriving at a meeting with a plan to cut the number of call centres in half. "Then she said, with a big grin on her face, 'I guess it goes without saying that if you let me I could get this work done for half the price we pay here by getting people in Georgia to do it.' We all laughed."
Sinclair says she got her way on consolidation, but she at least understood implicitly that BC Hydro is a B.C. company, so its work stays here.
Sinclair gets nostalgic when he talks about the importance of commitment to place. "In the old days, there was a sense of community, the school was important, the bank was important, the theatre was important. You wouldn't consider sending the jobs of your neighbour somewhere else to lower the prices you pay. You wouldn't consider that."
So he's frustrated by BC Hydro's decision under the BC Liberals to eliminate the "15 percent rule", which allowed Hydro to pay that much more than the lowest bid on a tendered contract if it kept the work in B.C.
Sinclair sees the move as indicating the BC Liberals' disregard for B.C.-based employment. Pick an issue -the Terasen gas utility's sale to a U.S. company, BC Ferry construction contracts with German shipyards, public service outsourcing deals with multinationals Accenture, IBM, and Maximus - Sinclair isn't happy with provincial government policy. He believes the government is ceding control over our economy and our good jobs to international corporations.
"If you ask the public whether jobs should stay in British Columbia," Sinclair says, "and whether they should be good-paying jobs, and whether there should be rules and regulations that protect work in British Columbia, the vast majority would say yes."
The depth of the gulf between Sinclair and the government, however, becomes completely apparent only when he says that when companies decide where to operate they look first at the nature of your workforce. "It doesn't matter what your tax structure is."