A dispute over who will do stucco work on some residential builds in Toronto and its suburbs has led to delays on thousands of projects and escalating legal proceedings against LIUNA Local 183.
The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) has accused LIUNA (Labourers’ International Union of North America) of ordering its partner bricklaying contractors to refrain from undertaking subcontracted work for builders if non-LIUNA-bound stucco contractors are on the job.
RESCON claims LIUNA is ignoring a March 4 ruling handed down by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) that orders the union to stop disrupting jobsites.
Local 183 is part of a council of unions known as the Masonry Council of Unions Toronto and Vicinity (MCUTV). The MCUTV has a collective agreement with the Masonry Contractors Association of Toronto (MCAT). LIUNA is also party to a collective agreement with a group of homebuilders known as the Toronto Residential Construction Labour Bureau (TRCLB).
LIUNA says RESCON is mischaracterizing the issues, and that its activities have amounted to enforcing its collective agreement and where there are non-union workers, whether bricklayers or stucco workers, indicating it will be filing grievances.
“This is a complicated case,” said RESCON president Richard Lyall.
“It’s been bad. Stucco work has been disrupted and masonry work has been disrupted. With crews being moved around, schedules being disrupted, closings not being met, this is affecting thousands of closings.”
In denying that LIUNA was orchestrating the withdrawal of bricklayers, Local 183 senior legal counsel Graham Williamson said in a statement that bricklaying contractors, in order to manage demand for their services efficiently, have decided to establish priority projects.
“Bricklaying contractors have decided to give top priority to builders that honour the Local 183 bricklaying collective agreement with MCAT,” Williamson said. “The bricklaying industry is working as hard as it can to do its part to meet the demands of its clients and consumers.”
The OLRB case pitted Ras-Con Group, a non-union stucco contractor, and the TRCLB, supported by RESCON, against LIUNA and MCAT, among other parties. Claims of unfair labour practices and unlawful strikes were to be decided by OLRB chair Bernard Fishbein.
The hearings, conducted over four days in January and February, identified several builders that were said to have subcontracted masonry and bricklaying work to masonry contractors who are bound to the MCAT collective agreement, but stucco work on their jobsites was given to non-LIUNA-bound contractors including Ras-Con.
What followed at those sites, Fishbein wrote, was a pattern where the LIUNA-allied masonry contractors refused to perform the bricklaying work the builders had awarded them. The masonry contractors returned to the sites only where the builders stopped the stucco work or ordered off the non-union stucco contractor.
In his decision, Fishbein found that LIUNA had not engaged in an illegal strike but that the union had “threatened an unlawful strike” or committed acts “the reasonable and probable consequence of which is others will engage in an unlawful strike.”
Fishbein also ordered “that the union cease and desist from threatening or committing acts the reasonable and probable consequence of which are that others, in particular the bricklayers covered by the union’s collective agreement with MCAT, will engage in an unlawful strike.”
RESCON and allies such as Ron Johnson, executive director of the Interior Systems Contractors Association, Gary Campacci, president of DuROCK Alfacing International, and Michael DeGasperis, president and CEO of Arista Homes, have claimed conclusive victory in the case.
DeGasperis stated, “The actions by Local 183 are shameful acts of unlawful intimidation and interference without apparent regard to the thousands of new homebuyers affected by late closings.”
LIUNA, though, argued it was vindicated.
Williamson said LIUNA accepts the decision of the OLRB on certain issues and would abide by it, but noted the board did not order any bricklaying or stucco company to change its work assignment, and as well LIUNA is free to continue to submit grievances where its collective agreements are being violated.
“The OLRB found that Local 183 had not engaged in an unlawful strike,” stated Williamson. “While the TRCLB alleged before the board that Local 183 was interfering in the scheduling of bricklayers, that claim was also dismissed by the chair of the OLRB.
“Having lost before the ORLB, RESCON now wants to relitigate its claims in the press… The fact is that any delays are directly related to the choices made by RESCON and the individual homebuilders.”
Other parties involved in the situation did not respond to requests for comment.
Currently, Lyall said, many jobsites still face delays as unionized masonry contractors still refuse to work with non-union stucco workers present. RESCON plans to continue the fight to convince LIUNA to back off, he said, with other applications submitted to the OLRB and RESCON also pursuing a remedy at Superior Court.
“As a result of the union’s illegal actions, thousands of homes will not be completed on time,” said Lyall.
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