A Victory for Workers
On September 27, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) declared that the Greater
Essex School Board in southwestern Ontario is a “non-construction employer.”
What does that mean? For decades, the school board has been restricted to using
workers and contractors affiliated with certain building trades unions (BTUs).
Why? Because construction employers unionized by the BTUs can only hire
contractors affiliated with BTUs. It’s part of the collective agreement.
It took a decade of hard work and hundreds of thousands of dollars for the school
board to prove that it is not a construction employer. Now, CLAC members, other
union members, and non-union workers can build and repair schools in Essex county.
That school board is not the only public entity that has been wrongly classified
as a construction employer due to a loophole in the Ontario Labour Relations Act
(OLRA). The Region of Waterloo, the cities of Hamilton and Toronto, and others
have all been unionized by the BTUs and classified as construction employers.
This drives down competition, drives up the price of taxpayer-funded projects,
and prevents many workers from working on projects in their communities that
their tax dollars are paying for.
What now? CLAC is advising other school boards and municipalities that their infrastructure
dollars can buy more when they escape a labour monopoly. While this
recent OLRB decision helps guide how to win the right to open tendering, it is not
a cookie cutter solution. Each situation is different and undoing this type of closed
tendering will remain difficult until the OLRA is amended.
CLAC has already begun drafting a labour bill to amend the act. Stay tuned
and we will advise you when it is time to lean on your MPP to act for justice by
supporting this bill.