Carpenters heading back to work; LiUNA voting

Michael Lewis

Special to Ontario Construction News

More than 15,000 carpenters will begin returning to job sites as soon as Monday after union members by a wide margin voted Friday to ratify a new collective agreement with employers to end the first carpenters strike in Ontario in 34 years.

It’s expected that the employers will begin some work  Monday with specific projects needing time to ramp up to full production in the next week or so.

It has also emerged as LiUNA  provincial ICI skilled labourers  hold ratification votes this week on a new proposed settlement after rejecting a previous deal but  remaining on the job.

And it comes as more than 1,600 striking workers in the provincial demolition sector also represented by the Labourers International Union have voted to accept a  new contract with demolition contractors after being on strike since the second week of May.

They will join LiUNA self levelling, framing and high rise forming workers who voted this week to accept new collective agreements to end their strikes and return to work.

The Carpenters District Council of Ontario which bargains for the 14 locals in the provincial industrial, commercial and institutional sector says more than 77 per cent of members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners in trades including carpentry, drywall and concrete formwork voted to accept the latest proposal from the contractors bargaining agency.

“There was huge turnout from one end of the province to the other,” the council said in a statement.

“We would like to thank our members for staying so strong on the picket line over the last few weeks”, added Mike Yorke, the CDCO’s president and director of public affairs and innovation. He said the new contract includes a wage increase over three years totalling in a range from 10 per cent across the province  to 12.45 per cent for workers in the Toronto area, along with some minor changes in language affecting parking. He said the contract responds to the “affordability  crisis” facing workers, and represents a roughly  2 per cent wage increase across the board over a previous offer rejected by workers.

Evan Reid of Thunder Bay local 1669 which is hosting the Canada wide National Apprenticeship Competition this weekend noted: “Our members spoke loud and clear across all generations- a main goal of the strike was to get a better deal for the next generation of carpenters – hosting the NAC here in Thunder Bay is the same goal – to recognize and value our next generation”

Carpenters have been on picket lines since May 9 in an action that impacted job sites  across the province including transit and hospital projects and the  ambitious mixed-use The Well development in downtown Toronto.

Members have continued to work in other sectors not impacted by the ICI strike including  residential and electrical power systems.

Carpenters say their pay needs to be increased in a climate of  spiraling inflation and because they continued working on job sites to build critical infrastructure throughout the pandemic. A spokesperson for the employer bargaining agency could not be immediately reached for comment.

 The carpenters’ settlement comes after the International Union of Operating Engineers voted a week ago to ratify a new three-year provincial contract to end a three-week strike by crane and heavy equipment operators.

Three-year collective agreement across the Ontario construction sector expired on April 30 under terms of provincial legislation, leading to a series of walkouts with as many as 40,000 construction workers on strike early in the month demanding wage hikes that reflect hefty CPI increases.


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