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September 6, 2007

Labour Relations

Alberta carpenters and roofers set to strike on Saturday

Owners claim move is ‘illegal’

Members of the Alberta carpenters and allied workers union are set to walk off the job Saturday morning.

The Alberta Regional Council of Carpenters and Allied Workers (ARCCAW) officially served its 72 hour notice to the Alberta owners’ bargaining group, Construction Labour Relations, on Wednesday.

However CLR insists if the pickets go up, it will be an illegal strike.

“We made an offer to the union last week that has not yet been voted on and the Board can require a vote of the other party in respect of a last offer,” says Neil Tidsbury, President of CLR.

The union is asking for an amount equal to an $11.00 increase to the gross package over four years, the same as is being offered to the province’s unionized metal workers and other construction unions.

The strike will affect approximately 4,000 members of locals 1325 and 2103, who work primarily in carpentry, scaffolding and roofing.

“We’re not asking for wage parity with the pipefitters,” says Martyn Piper, Executive Secretary Treasurer, ARCCAW.

“It just ensures that we won’t fall further behind. We’re too far apart now and we want the same amount given to other trades in dollars and cents on the commercial side, commensurate with the construction boom in the province.”

The union says its workers are falling behind other construction unions by accepting percentage wage increases at parity because they initially began negotiations at a lower base rate.

The Alberta Labour Code only allows construction strikes to proceed if 75 per cent of the 25 unions represented fail to ratify their labour contracts. As of Wednesday afternoon, 18 had ratified their contracts, one shy of the number of units required to avert a strike and send the dissenting unions to binding arbitration.

Three unions also have memoranda of agreement subject to ratification by their memberships: Local 488 of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters and Local 424 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who will vote on their respective contracts by Monday, and the Construction and General Workers Union (combined Locals 92 and 1111), who are set to vote on Sept. 13.

“If any of them ratify, the strike is over,” says Piper. “But there’s a tremendous amount of frustration and dissatisfaction out there, so I’m not sure they’re going to get ratified.”

Tidsbury says CLR expects to see the contracts ratified. “We already have settlements on 18 contracts and we believe that pattern represents an industry consensus.”

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