Labor/management negotiations: Three trades reach tentative deals

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File image from Carpenters District Council of Ontario

Negotiators for workers in three construction trades in Ontario say they have reached tentative contract agreements amid spiraling consumer costs and as a deadline for expiration of province-wide contracts in the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector looms.

Unionized tile and terrazzo workers are to vote in May on a tentative agreement reached Tuesday that includes a 3 per cent wage hike in each of three years, along with contract language that will boost apprenticeships and accommodation allowance, said Tony Di Maria, a negotiator with the Bricklayers Employee Bargaining Agency whose membership in Ontario includes tile and terrazzo workers.

Di Maria said he is “fully confident” the agreement will be approved, adding that the memorandum of understanding comes after unionized bricklayers and their employers reached a separate tentative agreement earlier this month, with ratification votes scheduled for coming weeks. David St. Louis, a chief negotiator for the Tile and Terrazzo Employer Bargaining Agency, called it a fair deal that is consistent with the type of agreements being reached across the industry. “I think it will be ratified,” he said.

As well, workers under the rodmen provincial collective agreement are to vote May 2 in Toronto on a tentative agreement reached this week. And Bruno Mondic, business manager/secretary-treasurer at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, servicing Ontario, said a tentative agreement with unionized painters was also achieved this week, but would not comment further.

Carpenters’ union spokesperson Mark Lewis, meanwhile, said union members in the Toronto area held a strike vote Wednesday but results will not be revealed until the other carpenters’ locals across the province conclude their votes by April 27.

Numerous unionized building trades are negotiating agreements that must expire every three years according to provincial requirements, with the current contracts to conclude April 30.

Electrical workers set the tone with an agreement for an 8.6 per cent wage increase over three years while ironworkers reportedly won a nine-per-cent wage hike over the same period with Toronto workers given an additional premium.

The bargaining is being conducted amid a 6.7 per cent per annual inflation rate in March according to Statistics Canada that represents a sharp escalation over the previous months, although some observers say the spike may have peaked.

“Lots of work but rising costs,” is how business manager Mike Gallagher of Operating Engineers Local 793, which represents crane and heavy equipment operator in Ontario, described the provincial construction market.

“The tone of bargaining is fine,” he said in a video address to members, but employers must recognize that labour costs will rise, adding that employers have little appetite for a strike given the abundance of available work.

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