Sheet metal workers return to negotiations with contractor’s association

Click to play video: 'Sheet metal workers still on strike but negotiations set to resume'
Sheet metal workers still on strike but negotiations set to resume
Sheet metal workers in Kingston have been on strike for the last 10 days – May 15, 2019

Union members of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 269 have been on the picket line for 10 days.

The workers took to picketing after contract negotiations with the Ontario General Contractors Association broke down at the end of April.

Local 269 represents roughly 130 sheet metal workers in the Kingston region.

Some of the sites the local members work at include Kingston’s new high school, the Napanee gas plant and the Feihe baby formula plant.

The local union members held a rally in front of their offices on Bath Road Wednesday morning and received support from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Kingston and District Labour Council.

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On Wednesday, Duncan Ashley, the local sheet metal worker’s union’s business manager, announced the two sides were sitting down to negotiate again.

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“We’ve been offering and ready to go at the drop of a hat to come back to the table, but that didn’t come to fruition until two days ago.”

Eight sheet metal workers unions are walking the picket line across the province with a 98 per cent strike mandate from its membership.

Three days of negotiations have been scheduled, running from May 21 to May 23, but Ashley says the union is prepared to negotiate beyond the dates currently scheduled.

“If we have to be there through the weekend we’re all willing to give up our family time because these guys are more important right now.”

An end to the strike may take longer than a few days. Ashley says when negotiations broke off, both sides were far from any agreement, and large contract issues are still outstanding.

One of those issues is mobility of workers, which was previously not allowed.

WATCH: Sheet metal workers enter third day of rotating strikes.

Click to play video: 'Sheet metal workers enter third day of rotating strikes.'
Sheet metal workers enter third day of rotating strikes.

Previously, local sheet metal workers were hired first. But this could change if the contractor’s association has their way.

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Ashley says it makes no sense for qualified local workers to be unemployed while sheet metal workers are brought in from other areas like Toronto.

“Mobility is something that does not benefit a community. These are the guys that are going to eat in your restaurants, buy cars from you.”

Ashley says the employer is also looking to change the journeyman to apprentice ratio from three to one to one to one, and change how overtime is paid out.

“What they’re asking to do is (to) roll back wages, and add overtime as straight time.”

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