Plumbers, MCAO extend strike deadline: “Good progress has been made”

Sheet metal workers
Sheet bMetal Workers' Union members picketing outside of Black and McDonald (Local 30 Facebook page

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Negotiators for the Ontario Pipe Trades Council (OPTC) and the Mechanical Contractors Association of Ontario (MCAO) have decided to extend their strike deadline to 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.

“The UA (United Association) and MCAO are continuing talks tomorrow (Friday),”

UA Local 46, representing industrial, commercial and institutional plumbers in the GreaterToronto Area, reported on its Facebook page late Thursday.

“Good progress has been made and we are hopeful an agreement can be reached tomorrow.  Please report for work as usual.”

Meanwhile, the Sheet Metal Workers’ and Roofers’ Union Local 30 reported that negotiations are continuing. “There is nothing solid to report. We will give you an update tomorrow.”

The sheet metal workers have been on strike since the beginning of May and representatives of the OPTC had warned last week that the province’s 12,000 plumbers were heading perilously close to their first strike in 30 years, after employers echoed demands made to the sheet metal workers for a 40 hour work week and the erosion of the unions’ control over hiring hall assignments.

These points became hot spots. Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario (ECAO) negotiators had earlier made the same demands of electricians, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), but backed off – resulting in some of the first significant settlements in the triennial contract negotiating season. (By law, all construction labour contracts are set for three years, ending on April 30.)

While the plumbers union initially agreed to extend negotiations, the sheet metal workers went out on strike.The latest developments indicate that the employers are not holding firm on the “naming rights” claim for workers they employ (rather than allowing the union to set job assignments), nor are they still insisting on the 40 hour work week, which they had claimed was important to maintain competitiveness with non-union shops.

If they had, it is unlikely the plumbers’ union would have agreed to extend the negotiating deadline and it is likely, if the plumbers win their case, the sheet metal workers will expect the same results – especially since they have paid the price of being on strike for three weeks.

“Since Tuesday talks have been moving slowly, but a bit better than before the negotiating parties had a break,” negotiators reported on United Association Local 46 Facebook page earlier on Thursday afternoon. “Proposals were exchanged late into last night and are continuing throughout today. Updates will be relayed to the membership this evening or as they develop. Thanks to all members for your patience as we work through this.”

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