By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Issues of wage disparity led to a workers strike on June 20, impacting road work projects across Durham Region.
The Labourers International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 183 announced on June 20 that local members were striking against Oshawa signatory contractors. The strike affects approximately 20 contractors of different sizes, including Coco Paving in Oshawa, responsible for a number of street rehabilitation and paving projects in the city.
According to Jason Ottey, the director of government relations and communications for LiUNA, the union has been negotiating with contractors for a number of months now. Ottey says that at issue is the wage gap that can exist between local workers, with two workers doing the same job being paid widely different wages.
“It’s been a long standing issue,” he says, pointing to the increasing size of the GTA, and the influx of Toronto contractors into the area who are demanding Toronto rates.
The issue was one that a memorandum of understanding, signed in 2014 between members and contractors was meant to address, however, Ottey says for some contractors, that hasn’t happened.
“We still have this wage disparity amongst our members so with the bargaining at an impasse, we were left with no option,” he says.
Following the strike announcement, pickets were set up in Oshawa, Bowmanville and Whitby.
In Oshawa, a trio of road projects have been delayed, including reconstruction of Carswell Avenue, Hebert Avenue and Eastwood Avenue. A long list of pavement preservation projects are also on hold, including work on Philip Murray Avenue, Renaissance Drive, Connery Crescent, and Conlin Road among others.
For the Region of Durham, projects being done in Beaverton, Pickering and Clarington are all affected.
Following the strike announcement, Ottey says a number of contractors came forward to sign a new agreement to get things back on track. However, the strike continues.
“As time goes on, I think more and more contractors are coming forward and signing the resolved collective agreement,” he says.