Approximately 15,000 construction workers have walked off the job, potentially impacting the delivery of residential projects across the Greater Toronto Area.

Multiple bargaining units within LiUNA Local 183 have all rejected contract proposals and opted to initiate strike action as of today.

The union says that those participating in the labour action include house framers, tile installers, carpet and hardwood installers and individuals who are involved with high rise forming work.

“Right now all high-rise sites in the GTA are completely shut down. Low-rise sites are also are severely impacted because of the framing strike that is ongoing,” LiUNA Local 183 spokesperson Jason Ottey told CP24 on Monday afternoon. “Our members want to get back to work but they need a fair offer from management to do so and what they've offered is far short of that.”

Ottey said that there are currently six different sectors that are on strike.

He said that main points of contention at the bargaining table vary depending on the sector but “principally” have to do with compensation and the rising cost of living.

“Because there's such a vast number of sectors that we represent it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the gap is but it is definitely a money issue,” he said. “Unlike in the tech and financial services sector, where there are bonuses that are offered to employees, our members can only rely on the wages that are provided to them through the collective agreement. So it's critically important that we get a very strong wage package that can that can provide them the economic security that that they need in the long-term.”

Strike could delay some projects

There are approximately 30 unionized trades that work in residential construction and all of their collective agreements expired on April 30.

In an interview with CP24, Residential Construction Council of Ontario President Richard Lyall said that it is “almost a perfect storm economically” to try to negotiate a collective agreement right now with supply chain disruptions sending building costs “through the roof” and inflation adding to the cost of living for workers.

Lyall, however, said that he does remain hopeful that deals can be reached with the workers before projects are delayed significantly.

He said that eight or nine of the trades have, in fact, already agreed to new contracts.

“The complicating factor is that you can have a strike for any number of days or weeks but it takes an additional amount of time to get the schedules back on track again. So if you have a one-month-strike you are looking at something like a two-month-delay, possibly even longer especially given our supply chain circumstances right now which are very difficult.”

Lyall said that the Ontario Labour Relations Act currently stipulates that strikes or lockouts in the residential construction sector cannot exceed six weeks. If there is no settlements by that time the workers would be mandated to return to the job site and binding arbitration would be used to resolve all outstanding issues.