Roughly 800 tile setters have walked off the job in Ontario, halting the finishing touches on projects across the province.
Members of the Brick and Allied Craft Union went on strike Tuesday, nearly two weeks after being in a legal strike position.
"We've been in legal strike position for a week and a half and I think demonstrated a high degree of patience," the union's president Kerry Wilson said from Toronto. "We have no idea how long we’ll have to stay out. There is no idea. It could be two more months."
Wilson said 200 members stopped working on condos across Toronto. Another 400 tile setters that work on industrial and institutional structures are also off the job in Toronto, he said.
Those on strike install marble, granite and ceramic tile.
The issue is compensation, Wilson said. He claims employers want to move from an hourly wage to a piece-work wage.
"We want things to stay as they were, compensation to be paid on an hourly basis," he said.
Employers are represented by the Terrazzo, Tile and Marble Guild of Ontario, Inc. Executive director David St. Louis said the guild does not want to eliminate hourly wages.
"You can't," he said simply. "We recognize there are contracts ... where you can't get away from unionized, hourly wages."
There are some jobs and tenders thant can only be filled on a unionized hourly basis.
However, he wants the guild to be more competitive when bidding on jobs against non-union contractors in the Industrial-Commercial-Institutional sector. That's where the guild has proposed changes.
"We want an additional tool in the toolbox," he said.
A notice on the guild's website says no further talks are scheduled.
"We hope to get back to the table as soon as possible," St. Louis said.
In Windsor, Ont., roughly 10 workers walked off the job at the city's new $77-million aquatic centre downtown. It's to host the 2013 International Children's Games in August.
"Every day the tile setters are on strike is another day in delay in getting that completed. We’re hoping they resolve their issues soon," project manager Don Sadler said.
Sadler said there is a contingency plan in place, but didn't say what it is.
"We have all the other requirements to have the athletes compete in the pool," Sadler said. "We’re not going to turn away the countries coming for the games. We’re going to host the games."
Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis is keeping a close watch on the dispute.
"We're hoping that they're able to resolve their issues within the next couple of days," Francis said. "There is, I'm told, approximately 28 days left, working days, required for tiling to complete the competitive side of the facility. Every day that passes is a day that is critical towards completing the tiling."
Francis says contingency plans will be put in place if the strike lingers.
"I think through [contractors] EllisDon, DeAngelis, as well as our project co-ordinator, they're looking at different options, and they do have plans," Francis said.