Striking plumbers and pipefitters return to work after ratifying new three year contract

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Ontario’s 12,000 industrial, commercial and institutional plumbers and pipefitters have accepted a revised offer from the Mechanical Contractors Association of Ontario (MCAO) and are returning to work today.

Video: Sheet Metal Workers’ Union Local 30 members sing the union solidarity song on the picket line last week. Negotiations resume today.

The ratification vote by United Association (UA) locals throughout the province wasn’t unanimous and voter turnout wasn’t overwhelming. The Ontario Pipe Trades Council (OPTC), which represents workers in provincial bargaining, reported that 3,395 workers cast ballots, and 79.70 per cent approved the new three-year contract.

Contentious issues had been MCAO demands for a reversion from a 36 to 40 hour work-week in many areas of the province (including Ottawa and the GTA), and employer control over “naming rights.” instead of long-standing provisions that allow the union to select upwards of 50 per cent of the assigned workers through local hiring halls.

(The hours of work and naming rules varied through the province. For example, in Ottawa, there were provisions for 50/50 naming rights, with exceptions for supervisors and for smaller jobs.  Some locals had 40 hour work weeks, and others had different levels of overtime pay between 36 and 40 hours.)

Contract ratification vote results fro the Ontario Pipe Trades Council (OPTC)

The settlement between the plumbers and pipefitters and the MCAO leaves only one major union, representing sheet metal workers, on strike.

Representatives of the Sheet Metal Workers’ and Roofers Union Local 30 in Toronto said negotiations with employers were to resume today. Previous rounds of negotiations had not seen any change since the sheet metal workers walked off the job at the beginning of May.

However. the short-lived plumbers and pipefitters strike and a quickly revised offer from their employers may give them some hope that sheet metal employers will also relax their demands for 100 per cent naming rights and an a 40-hour work week.

A prolonged strike especially involving the plumbers and pipefitters would have thrown the unionized provincial construction sector into chaos, with significant and costly project delays, possibly opening the door to non-union contractors to grab future contracts.

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