PCA Speaks Out Against Pan-Am Construction Monopoly

Emma Reilly – Staff Writer


Construction of the $155-million Pan Am stadium and $11-million velodrome will be subject to the same arrangement with the carpenters’ union that costs the city millions each year.

The deal that limits which workers the city can hire for construction jobs applies even though the city isn’t the body overseeing the construction of the two Pan Am venues.

Contractors who are being shut out from construction of the Pan Am venues say the deal could cause costs to balloon.

“This is just the latest example of the inflated cost, and frankly, the injustice, that this policy is bringing about to workers in Hamilton,” said Sean Reid, Ontario director of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada.

“Basically, what’s happened is that this policy has taken what should be a really positive infrastructure project and turned it into a financial sinkhole.”

Since 2005, only contractors who are signatory to the carpenters’ union have been allowed to bid on city construction jobs. City staff has argued that during a regular year of construction, the carpenters’ union monopoly costs the city $4 million to $10 million.

Infrastructure Ontario (IO), the arms-length body that handles the province’s construction projects, is fully responsible for tendering and overseeing the construction of the Pan Am stadium and velodrome.
However, since the city will be the ultimate owner of the two venues, IO must also observe the deal with the carpenters’ union.

Pan Am organizers have estimated renovating Ivor Wynne Stadium for the 2015 games will cost roughly $155 million and a temporary velodrome will cost $11.4 million. However, the city is hoping to build a more expensive, permanent facility.

David Adames, the city’s Pan Am point person, says it’s too early to say how the carpenters’ agreement will affect these costs.

However, Councillor Lloyd Ferguson, who worked in the construction industry before becoming a councillor, said he plans to ask the city’s legal staff for advice on the issue.

“In my knowledge, the collective agreements only reached to the contracting authority, not to the subsequent owner,” said Ferguson. “This seems a little over the top to me.”

Representatives from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Local 18 could not be reached for comment.

The carpenters’ union monopoly dates back to 2005, when two carpenters who had been doing work for the city applied to the Ontario Labour Board for certification that locked up all city projects involving even a small amount of carpentry work.

Last summer, the city received new legal advice that would allow it to open up all industrial and commercial projects to all general contractors. However, the city is still required to hire affiliated workers for carpentry projects.

“We recognize that frankly, this situation is largely out of the hands of the city of Hamilton,” Reid said. “Having said that, we think this is another clear case of where and why the city needs to put pressure on the province to change the law. It’s so economically untenable and socially unjust.”

Councillors were scheduled to hear a recommendation for the location of the velodrome Wednesday. However, that meeting was cancelled because staff still has to finalize details about the location, financing and scope of the project.

“It’s no one particular issue,” Adames said. “We just needed more time on the report.”