KITCHENER — Yesterday, Waterloo Region’s finance committee took a bold stand to stop a monopoly on regional construction contracts by endorsing Bill 73, the Fair and Open Tendering Act, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris said today. The committee’s endorsement will be considered by Council on Sept. 18.
“I am pleased to see that Waterloo Region has taken a stand for qualified local contractors who may soon be prevented from working on regional infrastructure,” Harris said. “Every qualified contractor should be able to work on local projects in the community where they live, work and pay property taxes. It shouldn’t matter what union card you hold, or if you hold one at all.”
In December 2012, two regional workers building a garden shed in Wilmot Township on a Saturday applied to join the Carpenters’ Union. Because there isn’t a definition for public-sector employers in the Labour Relations Act, it is feared that the labour board will subject the Region of Waterloo to the same collective-bargaining rules used for construction companies operating in the private sector, as it has done in several cases already.
Once a municipality is unionized under these rules, they become bound to a collective-bargaining agreement that is negotiated at a provincial level by construction companies and unions for construction companies. These agreements are developed for each trade and include strict sub-contracting out restrictions that force municipalities to tender work on large infrastructure projects only to companies organized by a specific union.
Several municipalities, including Hamilton, Kitchener, Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto, have fallen victim to this unfair labour practice, and it looks as though Waterloo Region will be next.
“Waterloo Region is fighting the Carpenters’ certification bid at the labour board right now. But in the absence of a clear exemption for municipalities, many observers think the Region will lose,” Harris said. “So I am happy that regional councillors have sent a clear message to the government that the law needs to be fixed and that Bill 73 should be passed quickly.”
To restore and preserve open tendering, Harris tabled Bill 73, the Fair and Open Tendering Act, on May 16 at Queen’s Park. This bill, if passed, would add a very clear definition to the Labour Relations Act for public-sector employers that would exempt municipalities and school boards from the province’s collective-bargaining rules for the construction industry.