By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton politicians deferred a decision to support a Progressive Conservative MPP’s private member’s bill that could open up the tendering process for municipal jobs across the province from the grip of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
“We need a fair and level playing field,” said Flamborough councillor Judi Partridge, who introduced her motion at the Aug. 12 general issues committee.
She argued the city needs to look at its balance sheet to save taxpayers’ money and this is one place to start.
Tory MPP Kitchener-Conestoga Mike Harris tabled Bill 73, called the Fair and Open Tendering Act, after receiving first reading in the Ontario Legislature last May. He has argued by limiting bids for public construction projects, it has cost taxpayers millions of extra dollars.
Kitchener-Waterloo Region is currently is battling a certification bid by the carpenters’ union at the Ontario Labour Relations Board. If the region loses, only unionized carpenters could work on municipal construction projects.
Since 2005, only contractors who are signatory to the carpenters’ union have been allowed to bid on Hamilton construction jobs. The situation dates back to 2005 when two carpenters who had been doing work for the city applied to the Ontario Labour Board for certification that locked up all city projects involving even the smallest job.
Hamiltonappealed the certification and lost.
The Carpenters’ union recently signed a three-year agreement withHamiltonin April that extends the contract to March 31, 2016.
A report by Construction Competitive Monitor: Ontario Municipal Construction Market stated that the carpenters’ union monopoly costsHamiltonbetween $4 million to $10 million extra each year. The report stated that for four municipalities – Hamilton, Toronto, Kitchener, Sault Ste. Marie – the cost is between $16.6 million to $249.2 million in additional costs.
The Hamilton Carpenters Union Local 18 has stated the extra cost is no more than two per cent higher. But, officials argue, the jobs are completed on time, and under budget.
Partridge’s motion received mixed reviews from her colleagues. While Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson backed it, Mountain councillor Scott Duvall opposed it.
Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla suggested city staff provide further information on Bill 73 for politicians to consider by the Aug. 16 council meeting.
Stoney Creekcouncillor Brad Clark refused to support the motion, arguing if he was still Labour Minister, he wouldn’t back it.
“It flies in the face of the law,” said Clark. “What is proposed here is draconian. It would terminate all collective agreements. I can’t imagine a minister of labour supporting this.”