The Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers and the city of Kitimat have a bonded history that started the year the district municipality came to be.

Jan Noster, president of the CMAW, says the union has had a presence in Kitimat ever since the B.C. government recruited Alcan to develop hydroelectric facilities in the 1950s.

“It was originally a company town,” he says. “Every single industrial contractor in the Kitimat area has an agreement with us. We’ve done all the industrial work in the town for the last 50 years.” That strong presence have helped strengthen Kitimat, as union members are active members of the community, investing in property and even taking on roles on city council.  

“These guys are spending money at the local shops, they’re paying their mortgages, the local guys are investing in their communities,” says Noster. “It’s a shot in the arm for not just B.C. but all of Canada.”

The union represents carpenters, carpenter apprentices, lathers, millwrights, floorlayers, piledrivers, industrial workers and many other construction trades and school board employees. They’re the largest union representing construction workers in British Columbia.

Job numbers depend on the project

The population in Kitimat fluctuates depending on what projects are in place. The current rebuilding of the local smelter, for instance, has added up to 4,000 additional residents to the region as a direct result of the project, says Noster.

Currently there are about 15 proposals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects. Noster stresses that if only one LNG terminal is built, it could “soak up the entire industrial workforce in the province of B.C.” In other words, there is huge business to be made.
“Right now in B.C. there’s probably 15–16,000 tradespeople who work on industrial facilities around the province,” he says. “That’s equal to the workforce that would be required to build on LNG. It’s huge.”

All of Canada benefits

The positive outcome of a project in Kitimat doesn’t just benefit the region — it benefits the whole country. There are countless potential positions to be made if a single project is approved.

“Right now in Calgary there are floors of high rises full of draft people, engineers, project managers pouring over blue prints for Kitimat projects, who are employed directly from the project, even though they may not be in B.C.,” says Noster.

“Everything from steel shops in Vancouver to concrete suppliers in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a big boom if just one of these projects goes.”

Currently, there are over $60-billion worth of projects planned. Noster says that if one of the proposed projects were to be approved, it would add 10 percent to B.C.’s economy, concentrated in one small area.

Never a lack of work

The union will continue to maintain a unified presence in Kitimat.  Aside from helping build a community, the union’s main role is to maintain the health and well-being of its members. It offers job-specific training, upgrading, and safety courses. Up to 40 percent of their membership is First Nations.

Noster encourages those unsure of future employment to consider getting into the trades, as there’s security and never a lack of work. “It’s a great opportunity for a young person to get into the trades since there’s long term steady employment,” he says. “We have an aging trades workforce in Canada, many more people will retire from the workforce in the next few years than will enter into trades. Those are all good things.”