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Trades, employers cagey at bargaining tables

Don Wall
Trades, employers cagey at bargaining tables

It’s been slow going at the bargaining table for Ontario’s unionized building trades in the ICI sector and their employer agency counterparts with no settlements in roughly eight weeks since the electrical sector signed a deal Feb. 13.

Negotiations have broken off in the mechanical (plumbers and pipefitters) sector, reported James Hogarth, business manager for the Ontario Pipe Trades Council, represented in negotiations by the Plumber/Pipefitter Employee Bargaining Agency.

“We will be seeking a strike mandate from our members April 25,” Hogarth said in an email. “We want a deal but the contractors are trying to change some articles that are basically untouchable in the eyes of the members.”

The Plumber/Pipefitter Employer Bargaining Agency did not return an email asking for comment. The next bargaining meeting is scheduled for April 29.

Construction Employers Coordinating Council of Ontario (CECCO) executive director Wayne Peterson has been compiling an authoritative list documenting the status of negotiations in all 25 trades and suggested there is some posturing going on but the main issue is that most of the smaller trades are waiting for the Carpenters,’ the Labourers’ and mechanical to settle before they sit down in earnest to close deals.

The unionized ICI sector negotiates every three years in Ontario, with March 1 marking the start of open season for negotiations and current contracts expiring April 30. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Construction Council of Ontario and the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario finalized 14 separate agreements on Feb. 13, with workers given a raise of $4.05 per hour over the next three years, averaging out to two per cent per year. 

Since then there has been no movement, with a lone tentative deal in the precast erector sector voted down by the union. 

“It is very slow. We are waiting for one of the other major trades to settle,” said Peterson April 10. “The Labourers will not settle until the Carpenters’ settle, and they are meeting next week.”

“Both sides are still posturing,” he said of the broader sector. “Some are out there for big settlements on the labour side, and on the management side, they’re leaning the opposite way.”

Representatives from selected larger trades and their counterpart employer agencies did not return requests for comment.

Jason Ottey, director of communications for the Labourers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 183, said, “Negotiations are currently underway in all of the construction sectors we represent and I have no other information at this time.”

Peterson said each set of trades and employers has met, with language and conditions usually negotiated first followed by talks on wages.

CECCO keeps a running record of all sets of negotiations. Peterson groups the trades together based on similar work and negotiating interests as MESH (mechanical, electrical and sheet metal), civil (including carpenters, labourers, rodworkers and operating engineers) and finishers (cement masons, plasterers and drywallers).

As of April 11, CECCO reported:

∙ boilermakers, met April 10.

∙ bricklayers, stone masons, meeting April 16

∙ carpenters, meeting the week of April 15

∙ cement masons, meeting April 12

∙ demolition, met April 10 and meeting April 11

∙ elevator constructors, met April 9

∙ glaziers, met April 11 and meeting April 15

∙ insulators, have had meetings

∙ labourers, meeting April 11 and 12

∙ millwrights, no update

∙ operating engineers, meeting April 29 and 30. 

∙ plasterers and drywall finishers, no meetings scheduled

∙ refrigeration, meeting the week of April 15

∙ sheet metal, meeting April 29 and 30

∙ sprinkler fitters, meeting April 22 and 26

∙ tile, terrazzo and marble, no dates.

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