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30 years of labour harmony lost because of hardline approach: pipe trade officials

Ian Harvey
30 years of labour harmony lost because of hardline approach: pipe trade officials

ICI sector plumbers and steamfitters are on strike after 96 per cent of members voted to reject the latest contract offer from the Mechanical Contractors Association of Ontario (MCAO).

 “Because of management’s demands, as of midnight tonight (May 31) Ontario’s unionized pipe trade workers will be on strike, said Ross Tius, chairman of the Ontario Pipe Trades Council (OPTC) bargaining committee said in a May 31 release.

“We have met with the contractors several times over the past few months, and they have not been willing to compromise or change their position. They want to drastically change the working conditions of our members, and that is unacceptable to us.”

The contractors are seeking significant changes to the hours a plumber or steamfitter works. The current work week allows the contractor the flexibility in scheduling work which also allows our members to schedule personal appointments and training classes without a loss of employment hours — it’s a benefit to both sides.”

The key issues, like those in the sheetmetal worker’s strike, are name call hiring and an end to their four-day, 36-hour week in favour of a five-day 40-hour week.

“Instead of working with us, the MCAO has taken an adversarial approach and is forcing our membership to go on strike to protect one of our core values,” says Jim Hogarth, Business Manager of the Ontario Pipe Trades Council. “It’s a sad day when after 30 years of relative labour harmony between our two organizations that they have taken this hardline approach.”

Of the 4,495 ballots from the eight locals covered by the Ontario Pipes Trades Council, 96.02 per cent rejected the offer with only 3.60 per cent in favour.

Negotiations are at an impasse and Ontario’s 12,000 unionized plumbers and steamfitters say they are headed for their first strike in more than three decades.

UA 46, the Toronto local, was the most vociferous with members packing the halls and chanting “reject, reject, reject” as 1,962 ballots were cast to spurn the offer with only 25 in favour and 1 spoiled ballot.

OPTC says they will return to the table when MCAO show willingness to negotiate and drop key concession.

 “Every point raised by the MCAO in favour of a 40-hour work week will benefit the contractors, but at a greater cost to our members,” said UA 46 Business Manager Robert Brooker. “Today it is the 40-hour work week and 100 per cent Name Hire. Tomorrow they may come after your pension contributions or overtime.”

UA 46 has been on a strike footing since May 24 but backed off with the final offer from MCAO just before the Tuesday May 27 midnight deadline.

Recent Comments (1 comments)

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David Jefferies Image David Jefferies

The concept of a 36-hour, four-day work schedule forces contractors to carry extra work teams and shuffle them over a work week. It requires more co-ordination but reflects that construction workers can’t take time off for things that other workers do easily, like doctor’s appointments and children’s activities.

I can appreciate the reasons for strike action. General contractors need to put pressure on the mechanical contractors to settle or they’ll lose a good portion of the summer.

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