Sheet metal contractors present new offer, indicating possible strike negotiations breakthrough

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Sheet Metal Workers' Union Local 30 members picketing outside the Toronto Sheet Metals Contractors Association offices on Thursday (SMWIA Local 30 Facebook page)

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Ontario’s sheet metal contractors have presented a new offer to the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association (SWMIA), indicating progress in resolving the strike that has put thousand of workers off the job since early May.

The revised offer indicates some level of compromise from the employers’ previous instance on a 40 hour work week, and “naming rights” to select employees to work anywhere in the province (rather than using union hiring halls to assign employees).
SMWIA Local Union 473 business manager Mark Hall wrote in a memo to members that the employers have tabled locally “hours of work are 37.5 either 5 x75 or 4×8 and 1 x 5.5.

There is a clause that if mutually desired shop or job may make minor changes within these hours as agreed.”

On a provincial level, the London local business manager said the employers are proposing new contract wording: “Mobility allows the contractor the first 4 then 4 from the hiring hall before they are allowed a fifth worker to a maximum of 6 from the contractor.”

Hall wrote that the offer (sent by email on Thursday evening) “was not tabled as a final offer which would suggest they are willing to talk as there are still some concerns with the offer.”

In a follow-up memo to members on Saturday, Ottawa Local 47 business manager Floyd Cunning, wrote that “your negotiating committee discussed and prepared a counter proposal to the contractors yesterday (Friday).

“This includes the 37 1/2 hour work week and the hiring halls off the table, with agreed to items and changes to the body and appendix A of the agreement,” he wrote. “This offer was sent to the contractors at 4:51 last night (Friday) via email requesting a face-to-face meeting as soon as possible.

“A revised proposal for all local appendix is being prepared throughout the weekend for this anticipated meeting.”

Hall’s memo to Local 473 members says the wages would be set to increase $.90 for each of the first two years and $1.20 in the third year, for a total over the three years of the agreement. There is a clause with the wording: “hiring hall has a Letter of Understanding not to change for the life of this new agreement.”

If the sheet metal workers and contractors reach a settlement, labour peace will be restored to Ontario’s construction industry. A brief strike by United Association plumber and pipe fitters resulted in employers giving in on similar demands for changes to the hours of work and hiring hall “naming rights,” which both unions considered vital and fundamental for their contract renegotiations.

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