Hamilton

New PC bill will save Hamilton millions, MPP says, but labour activists are worried

A new Ontario PC bill will save Hamilton millions of dollars when tendering contracts, says a local MPP. But labour critics say the act undermines the power of unions.
The Ontario PC government says new changes to the labour act will save Hamilton millions of dollars. But at least one union group is worried. (Aaron Lynett/The Canadian Press)

A new Ontario PC bill will save Hamilton taxpayers millions of dollars by letting the city bypass union companies if it chooses, says a local MPP. But labour critics say the act undermines the power of unions.

An omnibus bill known as Bill 66 would deem municipalities, school boards, hospitals and other public bodies "non-construction employers." In Hamilton, that would scrap a requirement that every bid on a city project include at least one signatory to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

"It allows for completely open tendering, from non-union companies or union companies," said Donna Skelly, Flamborough-Glanbrook PC MPP. She left a city council seat in June to become an MPP.

"This makes it a far more competitive process and will — trust me — will save the city of Hamilton millions and millions of dollars."

No one from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners local could be reached Friday afternoon. The NDP is still formulating a response, although it's made other comments on the wide-reaching bill.

"This makes it a far more competitive process and will – trust me – will save the city of Hamilton millions and millions of dollars," says MPP Donna Skelly. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The Ontario Federation of Labour sounded off about the change, saying Bill 66 compromises "the health and safety of Ontarians."

"By opening public construction projects to non-union shops, (Premier Doug) Ford is putting worker safety at greater risk and trampling collective bargaining agreements," said president Chris Buckley.

At first glance, the city is pleased. In 2015, it reached an agreement with the union that relaxed the standards created by a 2005 labour board decision.

This is even better, said Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ancaster, a construction industry veteran.

"There's no arguing that the more bidders you get, the better price you're going to get."

The restriction has been "a limiting factor in attracting bids," said Mayor Fred Eisenberger.

"I don't know what all is in the act, but I know this element of the act is what we asked for from the previous Liberal government. If this government is prepared to follow through, that would be a benefit to the municipality for the pricing of future contracts."

Bill 66 is known as the Restoring Ontario's Competitiveness Act. The province says it's aimed at reducing red tape in order to create jobs.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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