Ontario’s unionized sheet metal workers have gone on strike following a breakdown in negotiations with their employer bargaining agency.
The withdrawal of services began at various worksites on May 6. Darryl Stewart, executive director of the Ontario Sheet Metal Contractors Association (OSMCA), said there were rotating strikes at a handful of shops and the OSMCA offices were targeted on the first day but by the third day (May 8) more shops were hit.
No project sites have been targeted, Stewart said, meaning there were no project stoppages in the first three days. He said picket lines have been “civil.”
“There are no winners in a strike,” said Stewart. “It is not good for anybody. We would rather have kept talking.”
The length of a work week and use of union hall hiring rolls are the two main points of contention, said Stewart. The union is aiming to retain four nine-hour days while the employers are seeking five eight-hour days.
“We have put the word out that we are willing to meet any time but obviously we are not going to take these serious issues off the table, but we are willing to discuss them,” said Stewart. “The frustrating part for us is that through negotiations there was zero discussion on it. They would refuse to discuss these topics.”
Representatives of the Ontario Sheet Metal Workers’ and Roofers’ Conference did not return requests for comments. No further meetings are scheduled.
There was better news in other trades as it was reported that demolition workers, operating engineers, roadworkers, precast erectors, insulators and sprinkler fitters had all reached tentative agreements recently. Labourers and members of the Labourers’ International Union of North America, have also reached deals in most regions of the province.
None of the members of those trade unions had ratified deals as of May 7, according to Construction Employers Coordinating Council of Ontario executive director Wayne Peterson, who keeps a daily running tally of bargaining outcomes in the unionized ICI sector in the province.
The unionized ICI trades negotiate every three years in Ontario. March 1 marked the start of open season for negotiations, with current contracts having expired April 30 unless negotiating parties agreed to extensions.
The Carpenters’ have been working to ratify a tentative settlement reached April 29 with May 9 targeted for tabulation of final results.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Construction Council of Ontario and the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario finalized 14 agreements in February. The only other trade to finalize a settlement with its employers is the elevator operators.
The boilermakers, bricklayers, cement masons, glaziers, millwrights, plumbers/steamfitters, refrigerator workers and roofers all had bargaining meetings scheduled.
James Hogarth, chief negotiator for the Plumber/Pipefitter Employee Bargaining Agency, said the bargaining parties agreed to step back from the table for two weeks for a break with a resumption of negotiations set for May 21. The issues of contention are the same as with the sheet metal negotiations, he said.
If there is no deal by May 24 it will be “crunch time,” said Hogarth, with further job action or other measures to be contemplated by the two sides.
The teamsters, plasterers/drywallers and ironworkers were all reported by Peterson to be awaiting settlements in other sectors before finalizing their own deals.