We hope that agreements will be reached over the weekend and that labor disruptions can be avoided, but we are not optimistic that all outstanding collective agreements will be resolved.said Andrew Pariser, Vice President of RESCON.

This possible labor disruption would come as the province, particularly the Greater Toronto Area, faces an affordable housing crisis and soaring real estate prices due to tight supply and strong demand.

Collective agreements for unionized construction workers generally last three years. Many expire on April 30. Andrew Pariser says this time around there is added pressure to get deals in part due to the issues that have been caused by the pandemic.

There is inflation, but also problems in the supply chain while the pandemic continueshe said.

Cranes at a construction site on Dundas Street East in Toronto.

Cranes at a construction site on Dundas Street East in Toronto.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Pascale Bréniel

Multiple strikes

There are no less than 30 trades that work in residential construction. Some of them have new agreements already in place, but others may well walk out on Monday.

According to Mr. Pariser, other trades in the construction industry could also go on strike, as many of them have collective agreements expiring at the end of the month. This could impact timelines for housing projects.

Local 183 of the Workers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), one of the largest construction unions in the province, represents about 58,000 workers in the Greater Toronto Area. As of Thursday, this branch was negotiating more than 15 collective agreements in the residential construction sector alone, according to Jason Ottey, director of government relations and communications.

The local union said on its website Friday that while some settlements have been reached and others have yet to go through arbitration, at least one trade will be in a legal strike position as of May 1.

We stand up for our members and work to get the best possible deal for them and their familiesMr. Ottey said by email.

Rampant inflation

Negotiations are still ongoing, but the major issue in the negotiations concerns wages, particularly with the soaring cost of living, explains Robert Whillans, a lawyer specializing in construction labor law.

One thing fueling the demands coming from the union side is recognition of the role they have played over the past two years in moving the construction industry forward. These people showed up and put their health at risk. They think their pay should reflect that.

A December report from the Center for Future Work shows that wages in industry have largely stagnated, although construction is one of the few sectors that has remained productive throughout the pandemic.

The report was commissioned by the Ontario Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council. It shows that the value of permits for residential projects increased by 19% in 2020, reaching an all-time high of over $30 billion.

Also according to the report, citing data from Statistics Canada, construction wages in Ontario have increased by only 1.9% over the past five years, compared to 3.9% for the economy as a whole. Ontario.

Construction site with a worker and a truck in Toronto.

This affordable housing building is scheduled to open in 2019. Housing is an election issue in Toronto’s municipal campaign.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Lyne-Françoise Pelletier

Another factor in the negotiations could also be the shortage of construction workers, explains Mr. Whillans. However, at the moment, there are very big projects in progress. It will take skilled labor to make them.

Tarion, a consumer protection agency for Ontario homeowners, declined to comment on the possibility of strikes. But on its website, the agency says strikes can affect a new homeowner in two ways: by delaying the initial construction and delivery of their home, but also once the home is taken possession of, it can delay works and repairs.

The nonprofit, however, says that with more than 50,000 new homes being built in the province each year, a large number of them will not be affected by the strikes.

Mr. Pariser says that in parts of the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario’s Labor Relations Act allows residential construction strikes to last about six weeks before forcing a return to work and submitting any outstanding dispute to binding arbitration. This means that any work stoppage that begins in the next few days could end in mid-June.


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