Olympic Village quality issues come into focus

Today’s Province update on the controversy over the quality of pipe installation at Millennium’s Olympic Village site confirms some important facts that I have learned in the past six months:

  • both Millennium and the unions representing workers on the site share a very deep commitment to quality, despite the periodic communications breakdowns. (Not all the workers on the site are unionized. Their union status varies depending on the contractor employing them.) It’s fair to say Millennium is almost obsessive about quality, to a degree some of its subcontractors and employees may find excessive.
  • Meetings between Millennium and the unions during the past few days have reassured the union  that Millennium is requiring best practices on the site. New lines of communication are in place to identify and resolve problems.
  • Millennium places a high priority on good workplace relations, as evidenced by the hour-long pause in operations April 28 to mark the Day of Mourning, an international event commemorating the sacrifice of workers who suffer work-related sickness, injury or death;
  • Quality control is not simply a Millennium concern — several independent quality assurance processes are in place and have been since the project began.
  • The city is confident, as Gregor Robertson makes clear in today’s story, that when problems arise — as they will in such a massive and complex project — they are being identified and fixed.
  • The fundamental concern of the building trades unions — in this case the Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Union Local 118 — is low-bid and shoddy tendering practices in the construction industry, an issue that has not yet been mentioned by the Province. It will be interesting to see if media interest is as intense in fully private projects where the same problems arise.

There’s one aspect of the Province story I take issue with. There was no stalling by the city at any time. From the moment the Province splashed the union’s statements on page one, City of Vancouver officials, elected and unelected, as well as Millennium, made it clear they took the union’s concerns very seriously and pledged to ensure they were dealt with. There was no stalling.