THUNDER BAY, ONT. — Members of the International Brotherhood of Carpenter and Joiners of America Local 1669 are carrying picket signs at the Construction Association of Thunder Bay on May Street this week in support of more than 15,000 striking members across Ontario.
The carpenters labour dispute is the first in 34 years and revolves around wages due to the impact of inflation from housing, food costs, fuel and energy affordability.
Evan Reid, union co-ordinator for Local 1669, said the provincial membership voted to turn down the initial offer because they felt it wasn’t acceptable, “given the times we’re in.”
“We want to be sure that people moving into the trade feel that the compensation is acceptable if they would consider a career in skilled trades and carpentry,” Reid said.
“The value and the income should be something that can support them or their family, and right now with the shortage of skilled work tradespeople, it needs to be enticing to individuals that are looking to get into the trade.”
Like many industries across Canada, workers are in high demand, particularly with the ongoing worker shortage on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve been managing to survive, I guess you could say, but we have an extreme amount of work right now and some big projects coming down the pipe that are going to require additional forces,” he said, adding that industry recruitment and trade schools have been doing a good job of promoting the skilled trades in general. “We’ve been having some luck that way. We need to feed our contractors with workers, and we need to get them by any means possible. So having a good package to entice people is one way to do that.”
The work stoppage in Northern Ontario is disrupting construction projects from renovation jobs through to new builds and impacts work at the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre, the Kenora District Jail, the mining sector, retail and some schools from the Manitoba border to Kapuskasing, Ont.
Reid pointed out that not all of their membership would be affected by the strike and other sectors of the construction industry are still able to work. These workers include residential construction and Electrical Power Sector Construction Association.
“We still have many people that are able to continue working in those sectors. It’s just the institutional, commercial and industrial sectors that are unable to work in at the moment,” he said.
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal