Crane operators strike slows down construction projects in Ottawa

The Ottawa Construction Association warns construction projects ranging from Stage 2 of the Light Rail Transit project to the Centre Block rehabilitation project and condominium buildings will face lengthy delays due to job action in the construction industry.

Crane and heavy equipment operators with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793 began strike action last Monday after rejecting a contract offer.   The proposed contract included an $8 an hour increase.

A crane operator earns $65 an hour in Ottawa.

Carpenters under the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario have voted 75 per cent to reject a contract proposal, and will go on strike at Industrial, Commercial and Institutional construction sites on Monday.

“Nobody wants to go on strike and our union hasn’t been on strike in the ICI sector for 34 years,” Mike Yorke, Carpenters District Council of Ontario President, said in a statement on the union’s website. “But our members, from one side of the province to the other, have now voted overwhelmingly to tell their employers that we want a fair deal.”

The strike by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793 has shutdown cranes, shovels and bulldozers on construction sites.

Construction association president John DeVries says the job actions will delay everything from work on Parliament Hill to construction on condo towers.

“The operating engineers; just the tower crane alone, they’re so essential to moving materials around the site,” Devries said. “Doing a concrete pour for example, those cranes bring the concrete up to the multiple floors. So without that crane operator, there’s only so much you can do on a site. Other trades can work around it for a few days, but usually that means the site is grind down to a halt pretty quickly.”

DeVries says the rising cost of fuel and other products was a concern for members in rejecting the deal.

“It’s unprecedented. I haven’t seen this in 30 years of negotiation. Usually we come to an agreement and they get ratified,” DeVries said. “Nobody has seen inflation like this in 30 years.”

The Construction Labour Relations of Ontario says talks continue with the union representing crane and heavy equipment operators.

DeVries says the strike by crane operators and heavy equipment operators is having a domino effect on contract talks with other unions in the construction sector.

Labourers and plumbers have been holding ratification votes this week.

With files from CTV Northern Ontario’s Lyndsay Aelick

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