Sheet metal workers make concessions, details uncertain – Ratification votes continue

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Sheet metal workers in Ottawa line up to sign in for their ratification vote on Tuesday

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Sheet metal workers’ union members at locals across the province are voting to ratify the settlement ending their eight-week strike.

Hundreds of Local 47 members packed a convention centre meeting room in Ottawa on Tuesday night to cast their ballots.

As the meeting room filled and more members of the approximately 750-member local waited in line outside the door to complete their credentialing process, one union organizer said, “yes, we made serious concessions to the employers” in reaching the three-year accord.

He declined to provide further details, though negotiators for the union, represented provincially by the Ontario Sheet Metal Workers’ and Roofers’ Conference, says they prevailed in resisting concessions demanded by the employers, that led to the strike.

“Due to the support and solidarity of our membership your negotiating team was entirely successful in resisting the attack on the hours of work and we have retained the democratic control of our hiring hall,” Toronto Local 30 posted on its Facebook page.

On the employers’ side, representatives are remaining silent until the ratification vote is complete.

“We won’t be making any comments until the union completes their ratification meetings,” says Darryl Stewart, executive director of the Ontario Sheet Metal Contractors Association (OSMCA). “I don’t have the exact meetings dates but they are supposed to be complete by July 6th.”

The Toronto local votes tonight at a hotel conference centre in Markham in the GTA’s southeast area, and that location has caused grumbling from some of its approximately 2,000 members who live on the western side of the sprawling metropolitan area, with challenging rush hour traffic and a $10 parking fee at the hotel. (Local 30 administrators later posted that the union would be covering the parking costs.)

“If attendance is important and we want the majority of members to show up, why wouldn’t we have east and west locations?” one member wrote on the Local 30 Facebook page. “Not that I understand all of the logistics involved, but it would easily guarantee a higher member turn out. Rather then having to drive across the city during rush hour.”

Hamilton Local 537 members are voting at the same time as Toronto workers at the Millwrights Local 1916, 63 Ditton Dr.

However, Local 537 is accommodating members who cannot vote at the meeting, by allowing them to vote at the sheet metal workers’ union hall, 479 Main St. E. Hamilton, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Friday.

The strike, which began at the beginning of May, was the first for the union in three decades. Plumbers and pipefitters members of the United Association went on strike briefly in early June, before negotiators for the Mechanical Contractors Association of Ontario (MCAO) caved on the most contentious issues – the 36 hour work week in some areas, coupled with union hiring hall “naming” rights.

For the sheet metal workers, who belong to the Sheet Metal Workers’ and Roofers Union, there are different terms for different locals. For example, the wage increase will be $4.05 over three years for Local 537 in Hamilton, and there decking workers continue to have a 40 hour work week. Some sheet metal workers’ union locals continue to have a 40 hour work week for all members.

However, the statement for various locals says: “This strike was a sacrifice for our members. But it was a sacrifice that was absolutely necessary.  We honoured the sacrifices of the past, we have defended our membership today and we have sent a message for the future.”

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