Quebec construction negotiations: unions unable to agree on arbitrator

Quebec Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity Jean Boulet responds to reporters questions during a news conference. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Negotiations for the renewal of collective agreements in the construction industry are decidedly off to a bad start: the five unions have been unable to agree on the appointment of an arbitrator; the Minister of Labor will have to appoint him.

Under the rules, the five union organizations that are recognized in the construction industry must first conclude a negotiation protocol between them, before starting negotiations with employers’ associations.

Already, at this stage, the five had been unable to get along. These are, in order of importance, the FTQ-Construction, the Quebec Provincial Council of Building Trades (International), the Syndicat québécois de la construction, the CSD-Construction and the CSN-Construction.

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In fact, the four largest signed the negotiation protocol, but CSN-Construction, which represents only 6 per cent of workers in the industry, refused to sign it and chose to request arbitration.

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However, the five were also unable to agree on the choice of arbitrator, learned The Canadian Press. It is therefore the Minister of Labor and Employment, Jean Boulet, who will have to decide.

These pitfalls arise as the Minister had wished to improve the climate for industrial relations in the industry. He had gone through the trouble to meet with the parties last winter, several months before the expiration of the collective agreements, to ensure that things went smoothly.

The Minister of Labor had said he hoped that negotiations would start even earlier, in order to give the parties more time to agree, and thus avoid another labor dispute in the industry.

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Unions that signed the memorandum of understanding had told The Canadian Press that they were ready to start negotiations now, to facilitate trade, precisely.

The 2017-2021 collective agreements expire next April.

In fact, four collective agreements must be negotiated: in civil engineering and roads; in the industrial sector; in the residential; in institutional and commercial.

These negotiations concern all 192,000 workers in the industry.

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