500 in Windsor-Essex walk out as part of Ontario carpenters' strike, construction delays possible
Local union president says about 80 projects have been slowed down or stopped
Construction projects in Windsor-Essex in southwestern Ontario could be in for some delays.
About 15,000 carpenters in the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector across Ontario are on strike, including 500 local workers in Windsor-Essex, according to union officials.
Members of the Ontario chapter of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America began the strike action at 12:01 a.m. ET Monday after voting last Thursday to reject their employers' last offer. They include carpenters, drywallers, and welders.
"So to them, it was essentially the affordability right now for people to be able to live, right? The massive inflation, the increase in food costs, the increase in fuel costs. Just the skyrocketing cost of living increases," said Shawn Ramey, president of Carpenters Local 494 in Windsor-Essex.
"And they're also concerned about making construction a good paying career for the next generation."
Ramey said many young workers are struggling to afford a home or even cover the costs of vehicles as workers in this region have to cover a lot of ground in the country for their jobs.
About 80 local construction projects have been affected, and if workers are off the job for more than two weeks, some big projects may grind to a halt, said Ramey.
Max De Angelis, president of Fortis Group Construction, said a handful of his company's projects have been shut down due to the strike, including at some school sites and a nursing home.
But as an employer, De Angelis said he understands the workers' asks.
"I don't think anybody's surprised we're here, I think both sides are bargaining in good faith," he said.
"We all realize the last two and a half years with COVID has done enough damage, but we also realize the cost of living and inflation is getting to all of us — employers, employees, it's getting more costly to live."
De Angelis said it's a great career, but work needs to be done to ensure people are attracted to the skilled trades sector.
Still, he hopes workers can get back on the job during this busy season.
"We also have to realize we've suffered some tough times throughout COVID, trying to just get things done and the industry as a whole is very, very busy and very vibrant and there's not enough labour or supplies for that matter."
The unions are negotiating with the Carpenters' Employer Bargaining Agency (CEBA), a provincially designated employer bargaining committee made up of six employer organizations. In a statement on Monday, it said it is disappointed in the strike action.