Ontario carpenters go on strike and join crane operators

It will be the third union in the construction industry to take industrial action in May and the first time in 34 years that carpenters have gone on strike in the institutional, commercial and industrial sectors. This will mean the stoppage of work for more than 2,000 workers in the Ottawa region alone.

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The Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario (CDCO), the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, went on strike Monday, in a move that affected about 15,000 workers across the province.

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The intention to strike was announced on Friday via a union press release, explaining that carpenters in the institutional, commercial and industrial (ICI) sector have largely rejected their employer’s latest contract offer and cited wage concerns. during pandemic-era inflation.

“It’s financial compensation. We are currently going through an affordability crisis in the province of Ontario, and the cost of living, whether it is groceries and food on the table, housing or gas to go to work,” said CDCO President Michael Yorke in an interview.

Yorke said the dispute was all about pay and affordability for the union, and negotiations over contract language went smoothly and efficiently. The sticking point, he said, is how much salary many members think they need to survive in Canada’s current economy.

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“These are the messages that come through loud and clear to our members, and we need to make sure construction and carpentry is a viable career path for the next generation,” he said.

“The young men and women who are building our economy and building our infrastructure that we all need. We need to make sure they have a viable career path.

The cost of living has steadily increased in Canada and around the world over the past year. In March 2022, prices for Canadian consumers were 6.7% higher than the same time last year, the biggest increase since January 1991.

Yorke said the union negotiates contract terms every three years and this is the first time in 34 years that its carpenters have been on strike in the ICI sector. This will mean the stoppage of work for more than 2,000 workers in the Ottawa region alone.

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The CDCO is the third construction union to go on strike this month, after short-lived action by the Workers’ International Union of North America and the International Union of Operating Engineers ( IUOE), which continues with a break active for workers who operate cranes and heavy equipment and perform steel and mechanical erection work, as well as those involved in excavation, foundations, piling and caisson drilling, general contracting construction and related surveying work.

Yorke clarified that the CDCO’s decision to strike was in no way influenced by these other unions. “It was a decision made by members who were thinking about their own lives, their own livelihoods and their own careers,” he said. “It was not influenced by third parties at all.”

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John DeVries is President of the Ottawa Construction Association (OCA). He said that in light of strikes earlier this month, the carpenters’ strike will have a substantial impact on Ottawa’s construction industry.

“Everything starts to integrate and get worse when the trades pull,” he said. “If it continues, you have impacts when you can’t recover. Workers lose their wages. You can’t collect heaps and heaps of wages very easily.

DeVries said the different trades are highly interdependent on construction sites and the loss of productivity increases as each new union stops work.

“It’s very difficult to make up time,” he said. “The market is so strong right now, there is more demand than supply.”

Construction was a $5 billion industry in Ottawa in 2019. At that time, there were over 31,000 employees, 20,000 of whom were unionized.

Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath issued a statement of solidarity with the striking carpenters on Monday. “They deserve salaries that keep pace with the skyrocketing cost of living,” it read.

Labor relations are part of the fiscal and environmental strategies of the NDP election platform and have been among Horwath’s criticisms of Premier Doug Ford.

Another meeting between the two strike camps is scheduled for Thursday morning.

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