Earlier this week, members of Labourers' International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 183 rejected contract proposals, and opted to initiate strike action. The union released an official statement on Monday that came with a call to bring the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) back to the bargaining table.

Approximately 15,000 skilled construction workers from six sectors including high-rise forming, self-levelling forming, tile, railing, carpet, and hardwood installers have walked off the job in hopes of a new agreement.

LiUNA is requesting wage increases for its workers, and is arguing that the terms of some contracts – specifically for concrete forming – were written nearly 30 years ago, and that the new agreements need to take into account the rising inflation rates and the increase in the cost of housing that we all – including trades workers – are subject to today.

LiUNA also feels that the work done by these tradespeople throughout the pandemic – when they were deemed an essential service – has gone unnoticed, and that they should see an offer that reflects that, saying "We're ready to get back to work, but the Contractor's Associations need to offer a fair proposal that respects our members and the work that they do." 

Construction workers (not affected by the strike) install precast panels in an institutional building, image by UrbanToronto Forum contributor Red Mars

In the statement, the union went on to say that employers in other construction sectors and in other parts of the residential sector were offered better employment terms that better reflected the current cost of living and anticipated increases in inflation over the life of the collective agreement. While LiUNA Local 183 represents 6 sectors, the other 24 sectors of the construction trades voted to accept new deals. Construction sites rely on one trade to complete their job so that another trade can get on with theirs, so strikes in on a few sectors can affect entire sites, and therefore sites have been shut down.

The maximum length that a construction strike can last in the GTA is six weeks, as the Ontario Labour Relations Act stipulates that strikes or lockouts in the residential construction sector cannot exceed that amount of time. If there is no settlement by then, the workers will be mandated to return to their jobs and binding arbitration will be used to resolve all of the outstanding issues.

Construction in the ICI sector — industrial, commercial, and institutional — is not affected by the strike.

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