Thunder Bay

Sheet metal workers on strike in Thunder Bay, Ont.

About 170 sheet metal workers in Thunder Bay went on strike Monday, joining thousands of their provincial counterparts in an Ontario-wide job action.

170 workers in the city, and about 5,000 across province on the picket line as of Monday morning

About 170 sheet metal workers in Thunder Bay are on strike.

About 170 sheet metal workers in Thunder Bay went on strike May 6, joining thousands of their provincial counterparts in an Ontario-wide job action.

Picket lines went up at six locations in Thunder Bay on Monday morning, said Daniel Krupa, business manager of Sheet Metal Workers Local 397, which represents the Thunder Bay workers.

"The local issues are different, obviously, than the provincial issues," Krupa said. "Provincially, there's about 30 different concessions that the [Ontario Sheet Metal Contractors Association] are looking for."

The association is the bargaining agent for contractors who employ sheet metal workers in the province, while the Ontario Sheet Metal Workers' and Roofers' Conference is the agent of the workers themselves.

"The main thing is, they're trying create one contract, like a one-size-fits-all, for the whole province, which we all know doesn't work," Krupa said. "Right now, there are nine different appendices in our collective agreement for each area, and they're trying to minimize those so there's one."

The last round of talks between the association and conference broke down in late April, said Darryl Stewart, the association executive director.

Work hours, worker mobility among issues

Among the outstanding issues affecting Thunder Bay are a push by the association to increase mobility for sheet metal workers "moving into different areas" of Ontario, Krupa said.

"So, they're looking to be able to bring in more workers ... from other areas without hiring local," he said. "It wouidn't be good for the community — it's less money here."

Also at issue is a proposed lengthening of the work week province-wide.  Stewart said some areas, including Thunder Bay, are already on a 40-hour-week, but other areas work shorter weeks.

Stewart said the association also wants to "harmonize the apprentice ratio in keeping with legislation."

Under Bill 47, which was passed in 2018, the province made the apprentice-to-journeyperson ratio 1:1 in all trades subject to ratios, enabling employers in those trades to hire one apprentice for every journeyperson.

Sheet metal is among the trades subject to ratios in Ontario.

The association's proposals, Stewart said, are the result of a shortage of tradespeople in the province.

"These are important items for the industry," he said. "It's been put off for many years, frankly."

The last strike in the sheet metal industry was in 1990, Stewart said.

No new talks had been scheduled as of Monday afternoon.