TORONTO — The Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario has launched a campaign targeting tax fraud in the underground economy.
“You pay your taxes, why should some construction contractors get to cheat?” asked an online post directed at the trade union’s members. “Their tax fraud costs everyone.”
The campaign includes a Construction Industry Tax Fraud Days of Action planned for April 13 to 15. The Carpenters’ are planning demonstrations, lobbying efforts and jobsite actions for April 15.
The letter said municipalities can play a major role in combating underground economic activity and tax fraud by “maintaining a collective agreement with the Carpenters’ Union,” implementing a strong fair wage policy, and establishing a Fair Wage Office with investigative and enforcement powers.
The awareness effort comes after royal assent was given to Bill 66, the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, which included measures removing recognition of municipalities and other public bodies as construction employers. Under the previous legislation, public bodies such as the Region of Waterloo, were certified as construction employers and became bound to the Carpenters’ union for ICI work.
Carpenters’ director of public affairs and innovation Mike Yorke, a signatory to the recent letter addressed to union members, said in an interview after royal assent was given April 3, “Acknowledging that we were not successful at the provincial level, we now need to refocus our efforts at the municipal and public sector level.”
The letter said, “The tax fraud epidemic in the construction industry is costing provincial and federal taxpayers in Canada billions of dollars every year. It is the responsibility of all workers in the construction industry to be aware of the impact tax fraud has on our industry and how each of us can become more aware of the impacts tax fraud in construction has on all Canadians.”
The statement said residential construction is the top contributor to the underground economy. “The underground economy undermines the competitiveness of honest contractors that follow the rules and create meaningful employment and benefits for workers,” the letter indicates.
“The most common way tax fraud happens within construction is when construction workers are not properly withholding or paying income or employment taxes for their workers. In the process, workers have their wages stolen and jobsites are less safe.”