Essex school board calls on Liberals to restore open tendering

WINDSOR —The Greater Essex County School Board has joined a growing list of public-sector employers that are calling on the Liberal government to take immediate steps to maintain and restore open tendering in communities that have become trapped in labour monopolies, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris said today.

Click below to read the Esssex School Board’s decision:
Essex Board Decision

“I’m pleased to see that Greater Essex board members have joined so many other public officials from across the province, who have all endorsed much-needed reforms to stop closed tendering in Ontario,” Harris said. “This unfair labour practice prevents qualified contractors from working on publicly funded infrastructure and drives up costs for taxpayers.”

On July 9, the board sent a letter to Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi with a resolution approved last month, requesting an amendment to Ontario’s Labour Relations Act that would provide a clear exemption for school boards from the province’s collective-bargaining rules for the construction industry. This same amendment is contained in Bill 73, the Fair and Open Tendering Act, which Harris tabled at Queen’s Park on May 16.

“The growing support for this legislative reform provides a significant amount of momentum leading into September when the Legislature will debate Bill 73,” Harris said. “All we need now is for the government to get on board with this important initiative.”

Harris’s bill would close a legal loophole in Ontario’s Labour Relations Act that has been successfully exploited by certain unions to certify municipalities and school boards under labour rules designed and only intended for construction companies.

“The problem is once a public-sector employer becomes unionized by an affiliated construction union under these rules, officials must contract out all publicly funded infrastructure projects to companies organized by that specific union,” Harris said.

The Greater Essex Country School Board situation is much worse. It has been certified by five separate unions and, as a result, companies organized by other unions and non-union companies are prevented from bidding and working on infrastructure projects tendered by the board.

The Progressive Contractors Association of Canada and the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) have both been actively working to gain support for fair and open construction tendering and Harris’s Bill, said Ian DeWaard, regional director with CLAC. “We are pleased to see the Greater Essex County District School Board confirm their position on this important and costly issue.”

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