“I just hope that we can come to some sort of agreement where everyone is happy and this industry goes back to work,” said Bob Punia of the ODTA.
The association is fighting for an increase in wages. Right now, dump truck drivers operate for about $95.00 an hour, but with the cost of diesel on the rise and increased insurance premiums, they say they need closer to $130.00 an hour to make ends meet. They also have concerns with employment, particularly paid breaks and safety standards on job sites across the province.
“The price of maintenance has gone up 40 per cent, the price of labour has gone up 25 per cent, everything has just increased. We are not asking for extra, we’re saying just give us what we need,” adds Punia.
The job action is having a trickle-down effect. With a large number of drivers participating in job action, many sites are having issues operating.
“You just will not meet the schedule now,” said Dean Zeppieri, who owns and operates Zetra Enterprises, a construction company that prepares residential, industrial and commercial sites for building.
A large part of his business involves trucking out fill or dirt, which has been a lot harder to do because of ongoing job action. Approximately 60 per cent of Zetra’s projects are now behind schedule.
“We’ve been hiring brokers for years, that’s our business. There are times when you can hire 10 or 15 a day, up to 40 or 50 a day — so it’s a big part of the business,” said Zeppieri.
A board representing many Ontario construction companies has been sitting with the association, trying to iron out a deal. They were able to do so just last week with aggregate drivers in the province. But a sticking point appears to be operating costs, as the price of gasoline and diesel hit record highs.
“We are in the same boat. We’re not going to threaten anyone, we need these guys, we work together on a daily basis,” added Zeppieri.
Last week, tensions on the picket line rose as a transport truck driver trying to cross the line stabbed a picketer at a job site in Vaughan.
A 33-year-old Brampton man has been arrested and is facing an attempted murder charge. The picketer is still recovering at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
The association and developers have alleged there have been intimation tactics and the ODTA has agreed that the situation on the picket line has been tense at times.
“At the end of the day, everyone is human here, we all need to respect one another and we just want to have the same pen to paper agreements that other groups have had in the past,” says Punia.
But in order to do that, they have to meet somewhere in the middle. Until then, while more time passes, construction projects across the province could remain impacted.
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