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Precast workers ratify but OE strike stalls precast jobsites

Don Wall
Precast workers ratify but OE strike stalls precast jobsites

LIUNA members working in ICI precast ratified a three-year deal yesterday but most are not working because of the continuing operating engineers’ strike.

Tony Bombini, lead negotiator for the employers bargaining agency, explained precast workers work closely with crane operators to install their products and with the operating engineers into the second week of their strike, many sites are at a standstill.

Bombini estimated there are nearly 100 sites where precast workers are affected by the operating engineers’ work stoppage.

“It’s not going to be full speed ahead unless the operating engineers go back because most of our sites need cranes. We can’t erect precast panels without cranes,” he said. “So, if the operating engineers don’t go back and do some work, and then start using the cranes again, we can do a little bit of work, but we can’t do 100 per cent of our work.

“With the exception of a few companies that own their own cranes, I think all the sites are affected.”

The precast workers had rejected the original offer by the employers of raises of $2, $3 and $3 over three years but accepted a revised offer with the raises in reverse order, said Bombini. The modification puts the workers slightly ahead, he said.

“We were pretty confident that it was going to fly because our union said that they were going to get it ratified,” he said.

“We’re satisfied with it. Even the original proposal was a good proposal. I think there was one or two people that were voicing strong opinions that wanted more and just to give them a little bit more, we kind of changed the dollars around for the first year.”

LIUNA general counsel Sean McFarling said the increase amounts to an average of 15.1 per cent across the province, and noted the deal also included other minor language adjustments.

Three-year contracts in the ICI sector expired April 30.

Joe Mancinelli, the Labourers’ international vice-president and regional manager of central and eastern Canada, addressed LIUNA workers’ resolve during the current set of negotiations. LIUNA negotiators have been engaged in bargaining in both the residential and ICI sectors with strikes by LIUNA members hitting the residential sector hard, but Mancinelli said three-quarters of negotiations involving LIUNA members have been settled.

“We’re at place right now in history where even with good increases, I’m not sure that we’re any further ahead,” Mancinelli said.

“Let’s say someone does get $8 an hour, $10 an hour over the next three years. If you look at the inflation we have right now, that might not even be enough in order to get ahead.”

But he expressed confidence that LIUNA members would “be in a good place” once bargaining is completed this spring.

“I think even our employer partners understand that, quite frankly. They’re not going to be able to get the subcontractors and the workers unless they pay them properly. And we have a shortage of skilled labour in the province. If you follow fairly simple economics, supply and demand, we’ve got a supply issue right now and a huge demand for workers. So if they want them they’re going to have to pay for them.”

 

Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.

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