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February 20, 2006

Labour Unrest

CUPE strike may cripple worksites

Hydro, water hook ups stalled, permits slowed

An anticipated walk out over pension legislation by Ontario’s largest public service union could impact the construction industry.

Canadian Union of Public Employees, Ontario president Sid Ryan is planning a province-wide wildcat strike when the provincial Liberals introduce a bill affecting municipal workers’ pensions.

CUPE wants Premier Dalton McGuinty to agree to alter the formula for changes to the $40-billion municipal workers’ pension plan to make it easier to increase benefits.

But McGuinty has said the government has already made dozens of changes to the bill after two rounds of public hearings, and will pass it as is, despite the threatened strike.

In the meantime CUPE locals are voting as to whether they will join the strike if and when it comes. Most say they are in and that could include workers responsible for processing building permits, on-site building inspections and hydro workers.

“We’re hoping if it happens it will be a short term issue,” said David Frame of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations. “We’re not sure what the impact will be yet.”

Toronto Construction Association president John Mollenhauer echoed COCA. “But its clear that of the hydro guys go out it’s going to affect things like temporary hook ups at construction sites,” he said. “And if they get behind in permits, it’s difficult for the municipalities to get back on track once they get behind the eight ball.”

He was hoping for a short term impact too but said the full effect “remains to be seen. We just don’t know at this stage.”

CUPE spokesperson Patricia Daly said water shut offs will also be affected if there are widespread walkout.

However, she added, not all CUPE locals will be joining the action since the union constitution gives locals autonomy.

Ottawa municipal workers for example say they won’t be walking, calling the issue a fight between the Ontario union and the province, “not the people of Ottawa.”

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