Construction workers are back on the job. Here's what you need to know
175,000 unionized construction workers forced back on the job Wednesday after nearly week-long strike
Construction workers are reporting back to their work sites Wednesday morning after the provincial government's back-to-work legislation put an end to the nearly week-long strike.
With dozens of construction projects set to resume across the province and a collective agreement still to be reached, here's what you should know.
What does the back-to-work legislation do?
The special law, Bill 142, puts an end to the labour dispute between unions and employers and forces 175,000 unionized construction workers back to work.
The legislation maintains current working conditions and will grant construction workers a 1.8 per cent pay raise —slightly higher than the 1.6 per cent employers were offering, but much lower than the 2.6 per cent workers were asking for.
It also imposes a period of mediation between the parties until October.
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If the sticking points cannot be worked out by then, the parties will have an agreement forced upon them by an arbitrator.
What did the strike cost?
The province claims the strike cost the Quebec economy $45 million a day.
Considering that work on some construction sites already resumed Tuesday, this puts the final price tag at somewhere between $270 million and $315 million.
The mounting daily costs is part of the reason the government argued the special law was necessary.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard called out the larger construction industry, saying its process of negotiation collective agreements was "flawed."
"They've gotten into the habit of sitting on their hands and waiting for the government to sort things out for them," he said Tuesday.
Back-to-work legislation was also passed in 2013, the last time construction workers' collective agreement expired.
How are construction workers reacting?
Many unionized construction workers are disappointed with the back-to-work legislation, arguing that it takes away their bargaining power.
"Arbitration takes away the conditions that we fought so hard for," said Sylvain Boivin, a union representative for steelworkers.
"It isn't fair play, it benefits employers more than the unions."
Damien Leblanc, returning to work at the CHUM superhospital site Wednesday morning, said he wasn't happy that the special law took away his right to strike.
"We shouldn't have been here today," he said.
Workers head back to the job at CHUM hospital for first shift after week-long construction strike. Some say not happy being forced back. <a href="https://t.co/3UuqsbH4Ml">pic.twitter.com/3UuqsbH4Ml</a>—@eliabb
What about employers?
Though unionized workers feel they got the raw end of the deal, groups representing the employers don't consider the special law a victory.
Éric Côté, a spokesperson for the Association de la construction du Québec (ACQ), says at least construction workers were given a pay raise.
"They got a good deal, and we didn't get any deal," Côté, who is negotiating on behalf of the employers, said.
He added, however, that employers were not worried about workers returning to work sites and special steps are being taken to gradually phase them back in.
"Not all employees will be coming in necessarily [Wednesday] but they need to get the work done and the workers need their paycheck, too."
When will work resume?
Roughly 60 projects grounded to a halt in Montreal alone when construction workers walked off the job last week, all of which should resume Wednesday in principle.
On Tuesday, before the legislation even came into effect, construction work on most residential sites was already up and running.
The major work blitz on the Champlain Bridge scheduled for last weekend that will require complete closure of the bridge toward Montreal will now take place this coming weekend.
With files from Ryan Hicks, Elias Abboud and Radio-Canada