Open Tendering an Issue of Fairness, Not an Issue of Union vs. Nonunion
/ Author: Andrew Regnerus
/ Categories: News /
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Open Tendering an Issue of Fairness, Not an Issue of Union vs. Nonunion

RE:  Sault Ste. Marie Sets Wheels in Motion (Daily Commercial News, December. 20, 2017)

Dear Editor/Mr. Vince Versace,

We read with interest your story about the unfair tendering regime in the Sault that has most carpenters and construction labourers closed out of municipal work. We agree that it is high time for change here and elsewhere. The mayor, the council, and Councilor Shoemaker in particular are to be commended for their foresight in planning a change to their unfortunate circumstance. 

Other municipalities should be so progressive!

Indeed, it is an unintended consequence that captures this city as a “construction employer” for the purposes of Ontario’s Labour Relations Act.

We echo the mayor’s helpful and clear comment that this is not an anti-union move; the struggle is to allow open tendering for city’s procurement. The goal is fairness for all qualified workers and all qualified contractors who wish to participate in municipal construction in Sault Ste. Marie.

Despite Tom Cardinal’s feelings (it’s “all … anti-union”), it’s really an anti-monopoly sentiment. His union, the Carpenters and Joiners of America, benefit when cities like the Sault are considered construction employers. He is understandably threatened by the city’s quest for options. The collective agreement that he cites has never been bargained or signed by the city; it is bargained by a consortium of big time construction contractors, not a small city.  

We challenge Mr. Cardinal’s claim that construction can be openly tendered in the Sault. He says:  “We’ve never ever stopped anybody from bidding a project with the City of Sault Ste. Marie,” but his collective agreement bars nonsignatory contractors from performing the work.  

We put this challenge to Mr. Cardinal: allow the city, if you can, to procure projects openly, the same way most other cities in Ontario do. We agree that unionized labour has great value in terms of skill and efficiency but let’s let nonunion contractors who can meet the city’s prequalification standards bid and perform the work, so that this union advantage can shine through in a true competitive forum.

While it may be a costly and lengthy process to prove its “nonconstruction employer” status (which Mr. Cardinal and everyone else knows Sault Ste. Marie is) it is hard to imagine that it won’t pay for itself in the short term. Studies prove closed municipal tendering costs 25-30 percent over market. Even a $1 million investment (if it is so high) is recouped in a $4 million project!   


Andrew Regnerus, Ontario Construction Coordinator

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