Thunder Bay

Carpenters union calls for resumption of talks as Ontario-wide strike continues

The union representing striking carpenters in Ontario says waiting two weeks to resume bargaining is "inappropriate."

Union representative says strike could hold up critical projects in northern Ontario

Carpenters in Thunder Bay walk a picket line this week. They're among about 15,000 in Ontario that are currently on strike. (Evan Reid/Provided)

The union representing striking carpenters in Ontario says waiting two weeks to resume bargaining is "inappropriate."

Mike Yorke, president of the Carpenters District Council of Ontario – which is made up of local carpenters unions from across Ontario – said Friday the council had proposed resuming talks with the Construction Labour Relations Association of Ontario this weekend, or next week.

However, the association told the council it needed time to gather more data, and won't return to the bargaining table until May 24.

CBC has contacted the association for comment, but a response has not yet been received.

Yorke said any delay in reaching an agreement, could impact important projects.

"There's millions of dollars, if not billions, certainly in northern Ontario," Yorke said. "Various gold mines, billions of dollars of investment. Much of that's involving critical infrastructure."

"We don't think it's appropriate to wait."

Yorke said the council has also proposed the striking carpenters – who work in the industrial, commercial, and institutional sector – return to work under the terms of the previous collective agreement, with retroactive pay to May 1, while a new agreement is negotiated.

However, the association had not responded to that proposal as of Friday morning, Yorke said.

The strike began Monday after 15,000 carpenters represented by the council – about 600 of which are in Thunder Bay – voted against ratifying a tentative agreement.

"The members rejected that wholeheartedly across this province," Yorke said, adding about 75 per cent of members voted against ratification. "That was even with the union negotiating team recommendation to accept."

"The members said no, it was not sufficient to the crisis of affordability, the rising cost of living."

Harold Lindstrom, manager of the Construction Association of Thunder Bay, said this is a busy time of year for contractors, with a lot of construction projects starting up, with an "awful lot" of those requiring carpenters on site if the project is to go forward.

"It's been a lot of years since this has happened," he said of the carpenter strike. "Hopefully, I would like to have people return to work very quickly, but that's up to both sides, and the discussions that they go through."