Ontario plumbers, pipefitters strike for first time in 30 years after negotiations reach impasse
By Jillian MorganConstruction Labour
Projects underway across the province could face disruptions. Talks to reach a resolution are ongoing
WHITBY, Ont.—Some 12,000 unionized plumbers and steamfitters in Ontario laid down their tools June 1, prompting the sector’s first strike in more than three decades.
Related: Ontario plumbers, pipefitters return to work after week-long strike
Workers represented by the Ontario Pipe Trades Council held a vote May 30, overwhelmingly rejecting the final offer tabled by the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada just a few days before.
In a May 31 release, OPTC – part of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry – said the contractor association refused to budge on its demand for a 40-hour work week for plumbers and steamfitters.
The sector joins Ontario’s sheet metal workers, represented by the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association, who have been on strike for more than four weeks over similar concerns. The walkout of several key construction trades could jeopardize work underway in the province.
“It would be a misnomer to call this round of talks a negotiation,” says Ross Tius, chairman of the OPTC bargaining committee. “We have met with the contractors several times over the past few months, and they have not been willing to compromise or change their position. They want to drastically change the working conditions of our members, and that is unacceptable to us.”
United Association Local 46 posted the results of the vote on Facebook May 30, with more than 96 per cent of member rejecting the offer.
“Our ICI members have sent us a clear message,” the association stated.
“Instead of working with us, the MCAO has taken an adversarial approach and is forcing our membership to go on strike to protect one of our core values,” said Jim Hogarth, business banager of OPTC in a release. “It’s a sad day when after 30 years of relative labour harmony between our two organizations that they have taken this hardline approach.”
Negotiations will continue throughout the strike, UA Local 46 stated in a Facebook post.
The Mechanical Contractors Association of Ontario has declined to comment.