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Carpenters, demolition workers ratify, ICI strikes lifted – for now

Don Wall
Carpenters, demolition workers ratify, ICI strikes lifted – for now

One month after three-year contracts in Ontario’s ICI sector expired, the number of trades with ratified deals has surpassed the halfway mark, with 13 of 25 collective agreements now reportedly inked.

For the first time since early May there was positive news across the sector as there are currently no trades on strike in ICI, after the carpenters and demolition workers ratified deals last week. LIUNA is currently engaging in provincewide ratification votes for its tentative Labourers’ ICI agreement with a tally of votes expected to be announced next Monday (June 6).

But there are stalemates elsewhere in ICI. Members of the Insulators union turned down a proposed deal last week, and ICI painters and tapers represented in negotiations by the Ontario Council of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades requested a no-board report on May 27. That means painters in ICI (Appendix A) and tapers in ICI (Appendix “B”) would be in a position to strike 17 days after such a report is issued, or their employers could lock them out.

The 13 trades with deals, as reported by Katherine Jacobs of the Ontario Construction Secretariat, are electrical, ironworkers, carpenters, plumbers and pipefitters, demolition, steeplejacks, bricklayers, tile and terrazzo, operating engineers, elevator constructors, millwrights, plasterers and precast.

The Carpenters’ tentative deal was ratified May 27 with 13 of 14 locals accepting an offer made three days earlier. The new contract gives the workers about two per cent higher wages than in the first deal they rejected, with most of the province getting 10 per cent raises over three years ranging to 12.5 per cent in Toronto.

“We’re back to work Monday, driving Ontario’s economy,” said Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario president Mike Yorke after the deal was approved Friday afternoon, ending the strike that began May 9.

“I think it’s a fair agreement on both sides. It’s a reflection of the reality of the affordability crisis in a province.”

Representatives of the employers bargaining agency did not return requests for comment.

“The members gave us our marching orders to go back to the table and get a better deal,” said Yorke. “And I do believe that was achieved and that was recognized by the members and the fact that it was ratified in such a strong manner.”

The three-week carpenters strike, with 15,000 members off the job, was the first for the trade in 34 years. Many of the members who voted against the original proposed deal were younger and went through a “transformative” experience, Yorke said, learning principles of solidarity and sacrifice.

“This will be a strike that will be remembered by our younger generation throughout their working lives,” he said.

“I have to give full credit to the members. Yes, it was their decision to go on strike. It was their decision to ratify the agreement. They made the right decision both times.”

Other representatives of workers or employers were reluctant to discuss negotiations on the record, citing the sensitive timing of current bargaining efforts. LIUNA Ontario Provincial  District Council general counsel Sean McFarling acknowledged their negotiators had negotiated a wage increase of 13 per cent over three years for striking demolition workers but did not want to discuss the deal further until the Labourers ICI agreement is ratified. The demolition employers bargaining representative also declined a request for comment.

Bargaining on behalf of sheet metal workers broke off May 25 with a meeting with a Ministry of Labour conciliation officer scheduled for May 30. The contractors’ latest offer was for wage increases in the range of $8 to $8.95 over three years. The union is scheduling strike votes for this week.

Roofers in ICI are also represented by the Sheet Metal Workers International Association. The employees and employers bargaining agencies met May 26 and May 27 and also met with a conciliation officer on May 27 but the teams remain in a logjam.

The roofers union negotiators have filed for a no-board report and could be in a legal strike position as early as June 20.

The cement masons will be voting to ratify an offer the week of June 6.


Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.

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