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Thousands of workers in the residential construction industry have walked off the job, which may impact new development activity across the Greater Toronto Area.
In a press release issued on Sunday, May 1st, construction union LiUNA (Labourers’ International Union of North America) Local 183 announced that members were “forced to go on strike in support of fair compensation and workers’ rights.”
Members from multiple construction industry sectors, including those who do high-rise forming and self-levelling flooring, tile and railing installers, house framers, and carpet and hardwood installers, have rejected proposed settlements. With more than 15,000 labourers on strike, LiUNA Local 183 stated that this may impact ground-related and high-rise multi-family residential projects across the GTA.
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The union says that they have requested “fair compensation,” for its members in light of the rising costs of living across Ontario. Employers in other construction and residential sectors have offered employment terms and conditions which better reflect the current cost of living, LiUNA Local 183 stated, and have anticipated increases in inflationary pressures over the life of the collective agreement.
The union has called on the Contractors’ Associations to return to the bargaining table with employment terms that “address the costs of inflation and demands on the sector over the coming years.”
“The residential sector is amongst the most in-demand industries for the GTA and will continue to be sought after for years to come. They deserve compensation that reflects their contributions to the industry,” said Jack Oliveira, LiUNA Local 183 Business Manager, in a press release. “Our members work hard and are critical to building housing across the GTA. We’re ready to get back to work, but the Contractors’ Associations needs to offer a fair proposal that respects our members and the work that they do.”
According to the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON), there are about 30 collective agreements in the residential construction sector. All collective bargaining agreements in the GTA expired on April 30th. Many collective agreements have been settled, have reached a tentative agreement, or are waiting for an arbitration award between the parties.
For direct employees, the parties went to arbitration on April 21st, and settled outstanding issues in dispute, including wages, which were awarded a $6.40 increase on the total hourly package over a three-year period, said RESCON.
RESCON was notified by LiUNA Local 183 that its members have rejected settlements and are now on strike in the GTA, and within central, southern, eastern and southwestern Ontario.
RESCON says that the Ontario Labour Relations Act allows for residential construction strikes to last about six weeks in the GTA before mandating a return to work and handing over any outstanding disputes to binding arbitration.
In an interview with CP24, Richard Lyall, president of RESCON, said that it’s a “perfect storm economically,” to try and negotiate a collective agreement now considering rising inflation, supply chain challenges and higher building material costs.
If it’s a short strike, Lyall said that high-rise developments would be “pretty much close to back on track,” while low-rise development may vary depending on what’s being produced.
“The complicating factor with the strike is that you can have a strike for any number of say weeks or days, but it takes an additional amount of time to get the schedules back on track again, because everything gets upset. It does create a challenge,” he said. “So if you have a one-month-strike, then you are looking at a two-month delay, possibly even longer, especially given our supply chain circumstances right now, which are very difficult.”