Special to Ontario Construction News
Thousands of crane and heavy equipment operators critical to Ontario’s bustling construction industry are on a legal strike as of Monday after rejecting a tentative contract agreement in ratification votes across the province on Sunday.
Included among the approximately 7,000 members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793 employed in the province’s ICI sector are about 3,800 crane operators in the high-rise forming sector, with the bulk of the remainder operating bulldozers and other equipment on site excavation and preparation work.
Among the crane operators are roughly 300 tower crane operators used in condo construction province wide, said IUOE Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher who is also head of the employee bargaining agency. He said the strike has the potential to disrupt residential and other construction projects province wide: “It’s hard to imagine building a condo without a crane,” Gallagher said Monday.
Gallagher said pickets will certainly be set up if management attempts to continue on site operations without the highly skilled striking workers, which he said would be dangerous and unlikely.
He said no new talks have been scheduled just a day after members “strongly” rejected the employer bargaining agency’s latest offer. A representative of the agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Under provincial legislation construction unions in the ICI sector saw their three year contracts expire on April 30.
Gallagher said bargaining had been conducted with assistance from a conciliator and the union remains open to a return to talks, but would not welcome any move by the [province to force an end to the strike, which he acknowledges could have broad economic impacts.
The tentative agreement was rejected n economic grounds, suggesting that the offer did not go far enough in compensating for the rising costs union members are facing for travel, accommodation and other work related expenses and for the broader inflationary pressures that have emerged in the province.
Work falling under the provincial collective agreement includes:
- Crane & Equipment Rental
- Steel Erection & Mechanical Installations
- Foundation, Piling and Caisson Boring
- Excavation/Earth Moving
- General Contractor Construction
- Surveying (in connection with the above types of work)
Members working under the formwork agreement are also on strike after rejecting the latest offer from the Ontario Formwork Association and voting unanimously in favour of a strike.
“At our last meeting on April 28, 2022, the employers would not budge on their monetary offer of $5.85 over three years. For members of Local 793, this amounts to between an 8.8 per cent or 9.15 per cent increase depending on the crane or heavy equipment being operated,” Celia wrote in an update to members.
“The Formwork Council broke off negotiations when the Employer’s indicated they would not budge on this offer.”