Ontario Construction News staff writer
The union representing 12,000 plumbers and pipefitters across Ontario postponed a 12:01 a.m. Tuesday morning strike because negotiators from the Mechanical Contractors Association of Ontario (MCAO) pulled a legal ploy out of the hat at the last minute, leaders of United Association (UA) Local 46 have indicated in a memo to the union local’s members.
(Later in the day, the Ontario Pipe Trades Council (OPTC) sent out a similarly worded memo to other UA union locals in the province.)
As a result, the Toronto local has called a special meeting its members today at 4:30 p.m. to receive a report “on the final offer” from the MCAO and to vote on that offer. Similar meetings are being held throughout Ontario.
“In the final few minutes of the ICI negotiations, the MCAO presented to the Ontario Pipe Trades Council (OPTC), their final offer of settlement,” the union officers wrote.
“At this time, they also informed us that it was their intention to proceed to the Ministry of Labour an apply for a supervised vote by our membership. The contractors were not given an extension, it is a requirement of the Ontario Labour Relations Act that we bring a final offer back to the membership to vote on,” they reported.
“We believe that the proposed language presented in this final offer by the contractors is both divisive and an attack on our core values as a labour organization.”
The union did not specify the offer’s terms, but the fight in negotiations has been over “naming rights” — whether employers can select particular workers or must rely on the union hiring hall’s selection list – and an employer demand for a 40 hour work-week, when in many parts of the province, UA members have a 36 hour week.
“Your OPTC bargaining committee has been negotiating in good faith since this past February and in direct talks with the MCAO six of the past seven days, going well into the evenings on most days. This final offer does not meet the expectations of your bargaining committee and was not negotiated or endorsed on your behalf by that committee. That being said, we are now in the process of making arrangements for a Special Called Meeting to review the final offer and conduct a vote.”
The union’s leadership wrote that “it is imperative that all members attend to once again sen a strong message to the contractors that we will not accept 40 hours.”
The Local 46 meeting has been scheduled for the International Centre at 6900 Airport Rd. in Mississauga. Members within the ICI sector (including all apprentices) and any member who is unemployed is eligible to vote.
Presumably other union locals across the province will also receive, review and vote on the MCAO’s final offer.
At present, different bargaining unions operate under different rules, and some locals currently have 40 hour work weeks, and “named hiring”. “Hamilton, Windsor and Thunder Bay have full name hiring,” Wayne Peterson, executive director of the Construction Employers Coordinating Council of Ontario (CECCO), said in an earlier interview.
Meanwhile sheet metal members of the Sheet Metal Workers’ and Roofers’ Union remain on strike, in a walkout over the same issues affecting the plumbers. They have been off the job since early May, with no immediate signs of any resolution of the key outstanding contract issues.