The Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) has filed suit in Ontario Superior Court seeking to quash a vote by Toronto city council to add LIUNA to its roster of unionized trades eligible for ICI work with the City.
The application was launched June 26 with the backing of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA), the Merit Open Shop Contractors Association and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
It came a week after council had supported the LIUNA (Labourers’ International Union of North America) resolution and also voted to take advantage of an opt-out measure in Ontario’s Bill 66 that enabled the City to maintain existing agreements with nine other trade unions to supply labour for ICI projects.
The votes mean CLAC (Christian Labour Association of Canada) members and non-unionized trades workers remain ineligible to work on the City’s ICI projects.
Councillor Ana Bailao’s resolution to add LIUNA to the preferred list was supported 20-4 by council.
“As regrettable as the decision was to opt out of Bill 66, the significant issue we have at this point is the decision to enter into a Voluntary Recognition Agreement with LIUNA,” said Ian DeWaard, CLAC’s Ontario director.
“We had heard rumours the City was contemplating this in advance of the decision so we had the view already that any special deal with a singular union to the exclusion of others would be problematic,” said DeWaard.
It is not clear why CLAC has chosen to single LIUNA out from the other nine building trades
— LIUNA Statement
“So we maintain that view, our lawyers are confident we’ve got a good case. We think the City is on the wrong side of this.”
A statement from LIUNA said it was “truly disappointing” CLAC and its allies “have decided to directly attack the well-deserved recognition LIUNA members have earned from the City of Toronto.
“It is not clear why CLAC has chosen to single LIUNA out from the other nine building trades. LIUNA is the largest construction union in North America. Our membership in Toronto alone dwarfs the membership of CLAC across all of Canada. LIUNA’s members have worked on the vast majority of City projects building the proud city we have today. CLAC cannot say the same.”
Asked for comments on the merits of the suit, a statement forwarded by LIUNA general counsel Sean McFarling said, “We believe the City acted lawfully and sensibly in its decision to recognize LIUNA.
“We have instructed our legal counsel, Paul Cavalluzzo, to seek standing in this matter. We will otherwise not comment on this matter while it is before the courts.”
City issues management officer Bob Langmaid said the City does not comment on lawsuits or pending litigation.
Sean Reid, the PCA’s vice-president and Ontario regional director, commented in a statement, “Mayor Tory and the majority of Toronto city council played favourites when they voted to allow only one more labour group access to bid on Toronto infrastructure projects.”
The application argued, “The LIUNA resolution grants LIUNA a privilege not offered to other labour unions thereby imposing an unauthorized distinction on members of the same class.”
It later states the resolution “is not supported by any applicable or enabling legislation to permit the City to unilaterally augment the list of labour unions with bargaining rights in the ICI sector.”
LIUNA’s statement countered that the City is free to enter into a collective agreement with a trade union to ensure it has access to well-trained and safe workers.
A CLAC statement complained the LIUNA resolution was not brought forward publicly until the council meeting started on June 19 and there was no public consultation or staff analysis offered to support it.
“There is something concerning about that, how the City elected to enter into this agreement and what was available for public scrutiny,” said DeWaard.
“It was disappointing to witness what occurred at Toronto City Council on June 19,” commented Merit executive director Michael Gallardo in the statement. “The mayor and councillors are elected to be impartial in safeguarding the public purse and should not be entering into exclusivity arrangements on public infrastructure.”