‘Electrical sets the tone’ for trades’ bargaining

The second half of March is shaping up to be significant for Ontario’s ICI building trades unions and their employers as negotiators for many of the larger trades and unionized contractors get set to hunker down on contract negotiations.


Ontario’s unionized electricians and their corresponding employers in the ICI sector were first out of the gate to reach collective agreements this negotiating season. There were relatively few clashes reported as bargaining teams hammered out provincial and local deals that are targeted to match the projected rate of inflation over the next three years and even the potentially contentious issue of apprenticeship ratios not proving to be a major stumbling block.


“It’s another three years of peace,” said John Grimshaw, IBEW-CCO secretary-treasurer. “That goes a long way with clients. It is pretty well known in construction that electricians don’t go on strike. It doesn’t mean we won’t or we can’t but generally speaking, the process has served us well on both sides.”


Grimshaw and Graeme Aitken and Jodi Travers of the ECAO characterized the negotiations as cordial with current market conditions clearly top of mind, lessons on collaboration having been learned from past seasons and a decision to use mediators in eight of the local negotiations helping to keep the process on track.


“Overall it was positive, with healthy debate, but it was more professional than the previous round, with mutual respect,” said Travers, the ECAO labour relations manager.


“We found it was a far more collaborative approach all around the table,” said ECAO executive director Aitken. “People were concerned with the industry itself, about increasing market share, remaining competitive, all the things that industry partners would want us to keep in mind.”


Grimshaw said with “duelling economists” not far apart on the market and inflation projections, monetary issues were settled with dispatch.


“From my members’ perspective, everyone wants to see its employees properly compensated,” Aitken said. “The concern was the market.”


There was never any chance of a work stoppage with other mechanisms such as early settlement on an initial Joint Proposal ensuring certainty in the process, said Aitken.


Despite the smoothness of the electrical negotiations, that did not mean there were not “sticky issues,” Aitken said, with lots of local issues requiring solutions geared to those markets.


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Courtesy: Don Wall, Daily Commercial News by ConstructConnect