The job action by members of the Ontario Dump Truck Association (ODTA) in the GTA is entering a sixth week with impacts being felt at worksites but no resolution apparently in sight.
Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) president Giovanni Cautillo said there were minimal disruptions at jobsites while Ontario Sewer and Waterman Construction Association (OSWCA) executive director Patrick McManus and ODTA special adviser Bob Punia asserted that the effects of the job interruptions at jobsites are significant.
“The OGCA has not been directly made aware of any widespread disruptions at jobsites through our contractors due to the dump truck operators’ job action,” Cautillo stated. “This is most likely due to general contractors being problem solvers and creating contingency plans to deal with this issue.”
Meanwhile, McManus said, “The worksite disruptions are ramping up at soil disposal sites. It’s becoming an increasing problem.”
For his part, Punia said in a radio interview recently that work was at a standstill at some sites “because we’re the first ones that get into a jobsite. We move the material in order for other things to happen.”
The ODTA, an informal association of owner-operators that contractors say does not have the legal status to be able to sign collective agreements recognized by the Ontario Labour Relations Board, can point to two victories since its members voted to withdraw their services beginning March 21. Both Mississauga and Brampton City Councils have passed resolutions supporting the drivers’ demands.
The April 6 motion from Mississauga City Council asked city staff to explore how to broaden the scope of its Sustainable Procurement Policy to address labour rights and working conditions, while directing staff to review the procurement process to ensure contractors are complying with fair labour practices.
“As municipal leaders, we have to stand up for the rights of vulnerable workers who literally build our infrastructure and are essential to the construction industry, especially when taxpayer dollars are involved,” stated Ward 5 councillor Carolyn Parrish.
Besides seeking municipal support, Punia has asked three major contractor associations active in the earth-moving sector to recognize a nine-page proposed contract the ODTA has drafted that demands a major hike in rates as well as commitments to safety concerns and working conditions.
A driver who appeared with Punia during the radio interview said with the rise in costs of fuel, labour and parts, owners are losing $100 every day they run a truck.
Punia said via email he originally addressed drivers’ demands with three associations: OSWCA, the Associated Earth Movers of Ontario (AEM) and the Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA).
“To be clear we have only had discussions with the Earth Movers association and those negotiations are not progressing/are at an impasse as they refuse to agree to recognizing minimum labour standards in writing,” stated Punia.
David Rumble of the AEM previously said his association was willing to address the financial concerns of the dump truck owners but that the AEM could not enter into a collective agreement with the ODTA because of the legal status of the association.
Rumble subsequently said in a brief note that the AEM has forwarded three separate legal opinions to the ODTA on the contract issue and would be commenting in greater detail in future.
McManus stated OSWCA has received legal opinions but has “not decided on how to move forward.”
He explained the Greater Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractors Association has truck drivers covered in its collective agreement with Teamsters Local 230 so it cannot make a different collective agreement covering the same work.
“The ODTA needs to be negotiating with the Teamsters and work on an accreditation certificate to cover this section of work if they want to establish a collective agreement. Without this step, any ‘collective agreement’ is not legal or valid,” stated McManus.
Otherwise, McManus said, individual owner-operators could contract through their brokers with individual contractors on new deals.
Punia previously asserted the ODTA could negotiate deals with associations. He did not immediately respond to another request for comment given the later legal opinions that have been expressed.
ORBA has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Cautillo said in his view the brokers who negotiate on behalf of the dump truck owners should be regulated, with more transparency.
“The OGCA is communicating directly with the industry in order to see if an amicable resolution can be reached and if the general contractors can assist in that resolution,” Cautillo stated.