CLAC sues City of Toronto over its decision to add LiUNA to list of unions who can bid on municipal work

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) has sued the City of Toronto over its decision to add the Labourers International Union of North America (LiUNA) to the group of nine other construction trade unions who can bid on municipally contracted work.

LiUNA was added through a city council resolution after the city on June 19 “opted out” of Bill 66, meaning it remains a “construction employer” under the Ontario Labour Relations Act.

The Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PAC), Merit Open Shop Contractors Association and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation say they support the legal action against the city.

CLAC believes that by passing the motion to enter into a voluntary recognition agreement with LiUNA, the city has violated the City of Toronto Act and the city’s procurement bylaw and policy.

“While it looks like all the other municipalities in the province and Toronto’s Exhibition Place will opt for open tendering, Toronto chose to remain closed, which is very poor public and fiscal policy,” PCA said in a statement. “However, adding LiUNA to the list of unions that held a monopoly was, in the view of CLAC’s legal experts, illegal.

“The group launching the suit is also very concerned with the process that unfolded on the council floor to allow this decision to go forward in the first place.

“The motion, MM8.51, to enter into a voluntary recognition agreement with LIUNA was not brought forward publicly until the council meeting started on June 19 and there was no public consultation or staff analysis offered to support it,” PAC asserted. “Questions from a minority group of councillors about why the city was not taking an open and inclusive approach to construction procurement were dismissed. The questionable legal standing of the motion was made known to council members, but it still advanced with 20 members of council supporting it.”

“We heard rumours that the city was considering opting out of Bill 66, but were shocked when they decided to enter into an exclusive agreement with LiUNA,” said Ian DeWaard, CLAC’s Ontario director. “This agreement gives LiUNA exclusive rights to all skilled labour work on city construction projects. We believe that the council’s decision is not rational or legal. While we regret having to take legal action, it is the only way to shine a light on what seems to have been a deal cooked up in the backrooms of city hall in an effort to avoid public scrutiny.”

“It was disappointing to witness what occurred at Toronto City Council on June 19. The mayor and councillors are elected to be impartial in safeguarding the public purse and should not be entering into exclusivity arrangements on public infrastructure. We support fairness, inclusiveness, and transparency,” said Michael Gallardo, Merit Ontario’s executive director.

“Taxpayers deserve better,” he said.

LiUNA said in a statement provided to another publication that it was “truly disappointing” CLAC and its allies “have decided to directly attack the well-deserved recognition LIUNA members have earned from the City of Toronto.

“It is not clear why CLAC has chosen to single LiUNA out from the other nine building trades. LIUNA is the largest construction union in North America,” the LiUNA statement said. “Our membership in Toronto alone dwarfs the membership of CLAC across all of Canada. LiUNA’s members have worked on the vast majority of city projects building the proud city we have today. CLAC cannot say the same.”

The city’s motion says the voluntary recognition agreement “shall not apply to any projects under $400,000 indexed to inflation annually and any projects including but not limited to: playgrounds/playscapes/splash pads, landscaping within Parks, sports infrastructure within parks and hardscaping; and any projects including but not limited to: playgrounds/playscapes/splash pads, landscaping within Parks, sports infrastructure within Parks and hardscaping; and – will apply only to specific identifiable projects tendered by specific city divisions.”

The motion also calls for LiUNA to incorporate job training into its arrangements with the city.

“The Voluntary Recognition Agreement will include a plan whereby Labourers’ International Union of North America will work with city staff to proactively establish annual targets for union funded training seats at its Greater Toronto Area training centres, as well as strategies for increased access to localized training, with the goal of increasing the number of equity-seeking and indigenous registered apprenticeships,” the motion says.

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