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Strike leaves construction projects up in the air


May 3, 2022
By Don Horne

A large number of collective agreements have been settled for those in residential construction trades, with a tentative agreement having been reached, or the parties waiting for an arbitration award.

However, RESCON (Residential Construction Council of Ontario) has been notified by LIUNA Local 183 that its members in the high-rise forming, house framing, self-levelling flooring sectors, as well as railing, tile, carpet and hardwood installers have rejected settlements and are now on strike in the GTA, central Ontario and parts of southern, eastern and southwestern Ontario.

“The residential construction industry is a critical part of Ontario’s economy,” says RESCON president Richard Lyall. “Housing is a need, and the industry was considered essential throughout the pandemic. All sectors of construction are important, and labour, management and government did a good job working together during the pandemic. We are encouraged that a number of collective agreements have been settled. However, there is no reason for work stoppages, and we hope that the arbitrated settlement will encourage other parties to return to the bargaining table and reach an agreement.

In the ICI sector, Local 793 of the International Union of Operating Engineers has rejected a new agreement. That agreement is used in the residential sector for activities including excavation, cranes and concrete pumps.

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“Under labour legislation, construction unions in the province are entitled to engage in lawful strike activities,” reads a statement from Grant Cameron, senior director of public affairs for RESCON. “The Ontario Labour Relations Act allows residential construction strikes in the GTA to last about six weeks before mandating a return to work and handing over any outstanding disputes to binding arbitration.

Approximately 30 collective agreements exist in the residential construction sector. For direct employees, the parties went to arbitration April 21, 2022. The award (final decision) settled all outstanding issues in dispute, including wages. Taking into account other settlements in the residential and broader construction sector, the arbitrator awarded a $6.40 increase on the total hourly package over a three-year period. This represents an increase of approximately $12,500 to annual compensation. This settlement is in line with the established pattern set in the construction industry as an arbitrator is required to determine what the parties would have reached in bargaining.

“Construction remains highly paid work, but the recovery of our economy is uncertain due to rising inflation and a looming recession. Material costs have escalated dramatically due to supply chain problems and government taxes on housing are at an all-time high, putting pressure on builders,” says Lyall.

RESCON will continue to monitor the residential negotiations and advise interested parties on updates as they become available, adds Cameron.