PCA and CLAC not surprised but are frustrated by the decision

Waterloo: It is almost certain now that the Region of Waterloo will be forced to shut out thousands of local workers and many local companies from pubic construction work after a tribunal decision was published late Friday. In the decision, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) declared the Region of Waterloo to be a construction employer in the ongoing case between the Region of Waterloo and the Carpenters District Council of Ontario United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. The Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) and CLAC are not surprised by the ruling, but are concerned about the harsh impact the decision will have on businesses, workers and taxpayers.

“We are frustrated that the installation of a neon sign, a toilet and a garden shed can have the power to create a labour monopoly in a municipality, and block thousands of local workers from participating on public projects,” said Ian DeWaard, Regional Director, CLAC. “Closed competition will directly impact workers and businesses, and will drive up the cost of key infrastructure projects for taxpayers.”

This is the first time that this type of matter has been ruled on by the OLRB in a case involving a municipality. Previous cases have been decided involving businesses and school boards but no municipality has ever tested the non-construction employer exemption in the law. There is still one outstanding matter in the case between the Region and the Carpenters but it is not expected impact the outcome. Once the final decision is issued the Region will be forced to tender work only to firms and workers affiliated with a specific trade union, to the exclusion of all other unionized and non-unionized companies and workers.

“Our member companies are not surprised by this decision. But we are profoundly disappointed that the Provincial Government has thus far taken no action to solve the problem,” said Sean Reid, Federal and Ontario Vice President, PCA “This is a matter of fairness and fiscal responsibility. We hope that the OLRB decision will finally force provincial legislators to change the law and close this costly legislative loophole.”

Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris introduced a Private Members Bill last spring that would have prevented this situation by clarifying that the construction sections of the Ontario Labour Relations Act could not be applied to municipalities and other public employers. The Bill was supported by the PC Caucus but defeated in the Legislature by the Liberals and NDP. Both the Liberals and NDP said during the debate that the case needed to be resolved at the OLRB before they would take any action.