Essex County, Ontario rejects offer from Labourers International Union of North America

Daily Commercial News and Construction Record
VINCE VERSACE – Staff Writer


Essex County has turned down a proposal from LIUNA Local 625 to participate in a municipal development fund the union proposed because it cannot legally do so, the county says.

The Labourers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 625 recently approached Essex County’s council seeking interest about creating a LIUNA Local 625 Community Development Fund (CDF).

The fund would grow based on a pre-determined amount drawn per man-hour worked by LIUNA members on the Detroit River International Crossing project. Signatory municipalities could then draw from the fund, for their own infrastructure projects, while agreeing to hire only Local 625 contractors or employees for that work.

The county’s legal counsel advised Essex council that it does not have “the legal authority to enter into the arrangement” because the Municipal Act “prohibits creation of a monopoly” and the CDF proposal would do that.

“It is further offered that the proposal would interfere with council’s ability to exercise its discretion and judgment in awarding contracts,” noted Brian J. Gregg, chief administrative officer for Essex County, in a report. “Lastly, the (legal) opinion advised that the proposal would violate the county’s purchasing police by precluding an open and transparent competitive bidding process.”

Local 625 had said a possible goal for the CDF’s remittance could have been 50 cents per man hour, per year, stemming from the Windsor-Essex parkway and related work. The union estimates the project will deliver 1.5 million man hours for its members.

The Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCAC), The Christian Labour Association of Canada and the International Union of Operating Engineers all voiced their concerns with the LIUNA proposal. PCAC said there are dangers with restrictive construction tendering and hopes other municipalities “follow the lead” of Essex County.

“We’re pleased Essex County has made the right decision and said no to restrictive tendering of publicly-funded work,” said Sean Reid, Ontario director for PCAC.

“These sorts of proposals are awash in ethical, legal and economic pitfalls, and do nothing to create jobs, protect taxpayers or strengthen communities.”

LIUNA supported its expression of interest to Essex council by noting that just over 90 per cent of the contractors working for Essex municipalities, on road and sewer work, are Local 625 employers. Also, the union represents 800 members in the Essex heavy and ICI sectors.

Rob Petroni, business manager of LIUNA Local 625, had previously said there was no concrete proposal in place before Essex County because his union simply wanted to test interest in the concept.