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This Week in Construction Law: May 2 – 6, 2022

In Ontario news, more than 21,000 residential construction workers in the province went on strike on May 2 after the expiration of their last round of three-year contracts on April 30, including the members of Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 183, representing framers, concrete formers, and flooring installers, as well as the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 793, representing crane- and heavy-equipment operators. Compensation levels in light of recent inflation and cost of living increases, especially housing, were critical to the failure of negotiations over a new contract – Local 793, for example, was offered a wage increase of approximately 12% over the next three years.

This strike has already forced work stoppages on multiple Ontario construction projects, including Ottawa’s new $334 million central library.

On May 9, even more residential construction workers in Ontario are expected to join the ongoing strike after the Carpenter’s District Council of Ontario (CDCO), United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America recently announced the failure of contract negotiations. Despite a recommendation by the executive that union members accept the last offer by Ontario builders, 75% of the union’s members voted against it. Ontario carpenters have not joined a strike action in 34 years. At the time of writing, more than 20,000 Ontario plumbers, pipefitters, painters, and drywall tapers have also narrowly rejected proposed contracts, but have not yet announced an intention to join the ongoing strike.

According to Jason Ottey, spokesman for the carpenters’ union, “Inflation is at its all time high. We have a well-documented, and accepted, shortage of housing and a critical shortage of people with the necessary skills to build them. Quite frankly their offer was well short of what would have been acceptable to our members.”

The Ontario Labour Relations Act, which sets the length of trade contracts and the timing of their renegotiation, permits strikes in the residential construction sector in the province to start on May 1 every three years, but mandates their end by June 15, after which time any outstanding disputes are settled through arbitration.