Ontario Construction News staff writer
Sheet Metal workers in the GTA and Hamilton walked off the job at the close of shift on Friday, May 2 and full-scale labour action and picketing is expected today (May 6).
The action includes walk-outs by Sheet Metal Workers’ & Roofers (SMWR) Union Local 30 in Toronto and Local 537 in Hamilton. Other locals may be participating in job actions as well.
The sheet metal workers’ walkout will likely be the start of a volatile construction strike/lockout season – as very few unions and employer bargaining authorities had negotiated or made progress towards ratifying new contracts by the time the previous contracts expired on April 30.
While the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Construction Council of Ontario settled early (on Feb. 13), the Carpenters’ Union reached a tentative settlement on April 23, and sprinkler fitters resolved their dispute on April 25, most of the other 24 sectors have not settled and “no board” reports have been filed.
Strike and lockout action is possible 17 days after the no board report filings.
SMWR Local 30 says in a statement on its website that the contractors “gave the union its FINAL OFFER” on Saturday, April 27, and the union responded by saying the offer is unacceptable.
A major point of contention is that the union wants to establish a 36 hour work week, while the employers are insisting on a 40 hour work schedule (five days x 8 hours each), with 44 hours for “siding and decking”.
Employers offered a $1.00 increase upon ratification, and two further increases of $1.25 each on May 3, 2020 and May 3, 2021.
By law, unionized construction workers operate within three year contracts which all expire on April 30.
In the case of the SMWR Local 30, the union advised on May 2 that its roofing members rejected a memorandum of settlement by secret ballot. “The roofing contractors have agreed to meet with the union bargaining committee on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 to resume bargaining.”
“Please continue to provide the high quality of workmanship you are accustomed to performing. We are confident we can reach a settlement,” the union statement said, continuing: “To be clear, all roofing members should continue to report to work as previously scheduled.”
The Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario (CCDO) reports that it reached a tentative agreement on April 23, with the union leadership recommending ratification. Members voted last week and will continue voting this week, with May 9 scheduled for final tallies.
“We are confident of ratification,” union president Mike Yorke was quoted as saying in another publication.
The Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario and the IBEW Construction Council finalized 14 agreements early – on Feb. 13. Members will receive raises averaging about two per cent per year.
Construction Employers Co-ordinating Council of Ontario executive director Wayne Peterson reported on April 23 that there were “no board reports” relating to negotiations involving plumbers and steamfitters, operating engineers, elevator workers and labourers, as well as the sheet metal workers and roofers.