Labour board rules against Region in Carpenters’ Union case

QUEEN’S PARK — Today, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris renewed his call to end closed tendering in Ontario after the labour board rejected the Region of Waterloo’s appeal to quash a certification application filed by the Carpenters’ Union, which, if successful, will lead to a construction monopoly over regional infrastructure projects.

“Earlier this month, the labour board ruled that the Region of Waterloo is subject to collective-bargaining rules for construction companies because it fixed a toilet handle at an addiction centre and hired an electrician to install a sign at a bus terminal,” Harris said. “This ruling is the result of a gap in Ontario’s labour laws that I tried to close last year with my bill, the Fair and Open Tendering Act. Unfortunately, the Liberals and the NDP put the agendas of special-interest groups ahead of the needs of our region and communities across Ontario by voting against it.”

The labour board is still considering a certification application filed by two regional employees who chose to leave the Canadian Union of Public Employees to join the Carpenters’ Union after building a prefabricated shed in Wilmot Township on a Saturday in December 2012.

Because Ontario’s labour laws don’t include a definition for public-sector employers, municipalities, like Waterloo Region, can be unionized under the same rules as construction companies if the labour board finds that the municipality has performed “construction work,” even if it’s as minor as fixing a toilet handle. The problem is once a municipality is unionized under these rules, local infrastructure projects must be tendered only to construction companies organized by a particular union.

“This closed-tendering loophole in Ontario’s labour laws has been exploited by certain unions to set up construction monopolies in several cities, including Toronto and Hamilton. And its use has now paved the way for the Carpenters’ Union to monopolize local infrastructure contracts in Waterloo Region,” Harris said.

“If this loophole isn’t closed soon, infrastructure costs will significantly increase in Waterloo Region and thousands of qualified tradespeople will be barred from working on projects in the community where they live, work and pay taxes. This is unfair, unjust and flat-out wrong. That’s why I will do everything in my power as a provincial lawmaker to stop it.”

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