Strike delays elevator service in Thunder Bay

A province-wide strike is causing longer waits for elevator service in Thunder Bay. Fourteen hundred Ontario members of the International Union of Elevator Constructors workers have been off the job since May 1.

Property manager concerned about elderly residents being stranded if elevator malfunctions

A province-wide strike is causing elevator service delays in Thunder Bay.

The 1,400 Ontario members of the International Union of Elevator Constructors have been off the job since May 1, when their collective agreement with the National Elevator and Escalator Association expired.

Doug Steen's company manages about 15 properties with elevators in Thunder Bay. He is concerned about delays in elevator servicing during the strike. (CBC)

Doug Steen's company, Steen Property Management, runs 20 buildings in Thunder Bay, about 15 with elevators.

Normally, he said, elevator maintenance workers respond to problems in one or two hours. But while they're on strike, supervisors have been filling in.  

Steen said the workload is likely too much for them to manage. When a power surge left one of his elevators needing service, it took a long time to get a response.

"They were delayed probably 10 to 12 hours before they got there," Steen said.  So that building was compromised for that... period of time."

Thunder Bay's 17 elevator workers have been on strike since May 1. Elevator companies are sending supervisors to urgent maintenance calls. (CBC/Nicole Ireland)

Steen said the property only had one elevator and most of the residents are elderly. He said that kind of situation is what worries him most about elevator service delays.  

"If you're 90 years old and you don't have an elevator and there's only one in the building ... you're stuck there," he said. "Or in the case of a wheelchair or anybody who's infirm, they're in trouble."

'No-win situation'

Retired elevator mechanic Tim Beach said a few supervisors brought in by the elevator companies can't do the job of Thunder Bay's 17 elevator workers, who maintain hundreds of elevators between Marathon to the Manitoba border.

Beach, who now works as an instructor and is walking the picket line with his former colleagues, said they are not happy that elevator service is being disrupted. 

"The fellas take pride in the work that they do, they know the customers personally," he said. "They're part of the community.  So it's hard on them.  It really is."

Beach added the workers want stalled negotiations between the union and the elevator association to resume.

The association is comprised of four companies: ThyssenKrupp, Otis, Schlindler and Kone. 

Steen said he hopes the dispute is resolved soon. 

"[I] just hope things work out for both parties.  Obviously it's a no-win situation in a strike."