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TDSB retains construction employer status

DCN News Services
TDSB retains construction employer status

TORONTO — The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has decided to retain its construction employer status and maintain its relationship with the Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council (MCSTC) for construction projects, but some changes have been made to the agreement.

“I’m pleased to report that the board has reached an agreement with the MCSTC to amend their current contract to provide us greater flexibility with regards to the contracting out of construction work,” said Robin Pilkey, chair of the TDSB, in a statement. “The decision — which only impacts construction staff and not maintenance staff within the union — is expected to save the board as much as $1.5 million a year, money which cannot be used for school operations, but can be reinvested into repairing our schools.”

The decision was made at a special meeting on July 2, after deferring the decision on June 26. The options presented to the board were to either take no action and allow the provisions of Bill 66, legislated by the Ontario Government, to take effect, deeming the board and other public entities to be non-construction employers, or to opt out. The deadline to decide was July 3.

If the board decided to become a non-construction employer, its collective agreement would have been terminated and the board would not have been tied to any signatory trade in the ICI sector.

“It’s important to note that in other jurisdictions where the decision has been made to open up construction projects, legal action has been launched,” Pilkey said in the statement. “Had the board decided to sever its relationship with the MCSTC, there was a significant risk of a legal challenge that could result in the TDSB being liable for monetary damages, incur financial costs to defend legal claims, only to be ordered by the courts to resume the current contract.”

MCSTC members include the carpenters, insulators, boilermakers, bricklayers, sheet metal workers, painters, tile and terrazzo workers, electrical workers, plumbers and pipefitters, sprinkler fitters, millwrights and others.

One of the changes in the new agreement is reducing limits around contracting out. Currently, the board is permitted to contract out work above $1.725 million, however, under the new agreement, that amount is lowered to $1.3 million.

The new agreement also includes increased flexibility for specialty work which will allow the board to go to outside contractors in certain circumstances for such work as asbestos removal and emergency repairs to ensure a more timely response.

It will also allow general contractors to bid on work that is under the limits for contracting out, a provision which will enable the board to contract out to non-unionized general contractors providing they use union trades.

Furthermore, the new agreement includes expanded student opportunities. The union has committed to strive to further strengthen student opportunities in the skilled trades, including preferential access for TDSB students, reads the statement.

“I believe this was the best possible decision for our board, one that will save money while retaining our well-trained skilled trades employees, ensuring high standards of health and safety awareness and training, and allow the TDSB to be protected against skilled trade shortages by having ready access to such workers, while not having to maintain a large compliment on an ongoing basis,” concluded Pilkey in the statement.

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