Radio silence as sheet metal workers’ union negotiations continue

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sheet metal worker pickets
Local 30 Sheet Metal Workers' Union members picketing outside the Toronto Sheet Metal Contractors Association offices on Thursday (Local 30 Facebook page)

Ontario Construction News staff writer

As the long Canada Day weekend approaches, negotiations between the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Union (SMWIA) and the Ontario Sheet Metal Contractors Association (OSMCA) appear to be continuing, indicating progress towards a resolution of the two-month strike.

Sheet Metal Workers’ Union Local 30 in Toronto posted a brief message on its Facebook page about 6 p.m. yesterday saying simply:“Negotiation Update. We are still at the table and will provide more information when it comes available.”

Commonly when negotiations are progressing there is ‘radio silence’ during the process.

Some union members, however, made clear their perspectives in comments to Ontario Construction News, especially relating to OSMCA executive director Darryl Stewart’s explanation of why the association has been calling for extended work hours without overtime if the union hiring hall cannot provide contractors with sufficient labour to complete projects on time.

“The labour shortage in the sheet metal trade was caused by the contractors’ last three contracts,” wrote Kai. “We have taken concessions and low monetary increases due to looming recessions

“This time we are at 99 per cent employment. Give the last true craft trade what they deserve. This is about corporate greed and mismanagement by the contractors. They could end the labour shortage by bringing sheet metal workers wages up to par with the other mechanical trades. We already give 45 hours a week coverage. Losing five hours a week will not solve the problem only compound it. This is now all about certain people’s egos!”

OSMCA is concerned that its members only have about 20 per cent market share in the Industrial, Commercial and Industrial (ICI) market in major centres such as Toronto, while non-union shops and contractors represented by the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) are grabbing most of the market share, with a 40 hour work week and flexible worker deployment rules.

(In an interview, Stewart said the SMWIA’s residential contracting Local 285, which has a 40 hour work-week, commands 85 per cent of the market in Toronto.) He also said the option for splitting shifts so that workers are deployed on various 9 hour shifts for five-day coverage only works for the largest jobs and contracts as, with virtually no unemployment, union members are reluctant to take any short term assignments especially with smaller contractors.

A second sheet metal worker, George Wettlaufer, posted this comment on the OCN website:

“We didn’t start this, and will not go backwards,” he wrote. “The demands of the employer are nothing short of a union busting tactic.

“And other trades beware because they will try this on you next contract!! The brothers and sisters of the sheet metal sector have been resilient and will not accept this. All we have ever wanted was a fair contract. Other trades are holding on to what we are fighting for (and never had to strike) (and this) proves there is a witch-hunt one trade at a time! SOLIDARITY.”

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