Crane operators strike affecting major construction projects in Ottawa

A strike by crane and heavy equipment operators has shutdown construction on Ottawa's new $334 million central library at LeBreton Flats, and could potentially impact work on Stage 2 of the Light Rail Transit project.

Crane and heavy equipment operators with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793 began strike action last Monday after rejecting a contract offer. The proposal included a salary increase of $8 per hour over three years, averaging four per cent a year, according to the International Union of Operating Engineers.

A crane operator earns $65 an hour in Ottawa.

The city of Ottawa says the week old job action has already forced work on the new Ottawa Public Library-Library and Archives Canada project at LeBreton Flats, called Ādisōke, to stop.

“Due to the current International Union of Operating Engineers, Institutional, Commercial, Industrial (ICI) sector strike, work has temporarily paused at the Ādisōke project site. The Ādisōke project site is safe and secure," Carina Ducios, Director of Infrastructure Services, told CTV News Ottawa in a statement.

"The City and the Ādisōke Project Team are monitoring the situation closely and will continue to provide regular updates."

The price tag for the new library at LeBreton Flats increased $131 million last fall due to escalating construction costs.

The new library is scheduled to open in mid-2026, according to a report tabled in October. The initial plan was for the new library to open in 2025.

Meantime, there are concerns the strike could halt construction on Stage 2 of Ottawa's LRT project, which will extend the Confederation Line to Tenth Line Road and Moodie Drive, and run the Trillium Line from Bayview Station to Riverside South.

“The City has been advised by both contractors on the Stage 2 LRT project that the strike by the International Union of Operating Engineers could potentially impact the LRT project," Richard Holder, Manager of Rail Infrastructure, said Friday.

"Currently, work is continuing across the east, west and south extensions. The City and its contractors are closely monitoring the situation.”

The city says it will continue to assess and evaluate the situation to determine if the strike will further impact city projects.

All construction projects face delays, association warns

The Ottawa Construction Association warns job action by crane and heavy equipment operators and carpenters will cause lengthy delays for all projects in Ottawa, from the LRT to the Centre Block rehabilitation project and condominium buildings.

With crane and heavy equipment operators already on strike, carpenters are set to begin job action on Monday.

Members of the Carpenters' District Council of Ontario have voted 75 per cent to reject a contract proposal, setting the stage for a strike at Industrial, Commercial and Institutional construction sites.

"Nobody wants to go on strike and our union hasn't been on strike in the ICI sector for 34 years," Mike Yorke, Carpenters District Council of Ontario President, said in a statement on the union's website. "But our members, from one side of the province to the other, have now voted overwhelmingly to tell their employers that we want a fair deal."

The strike by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793 has shutdown cranes, shovels and bulldozers on construction sites.

Construction association president John DeVries says the job actions will cause delays at all construction sites.

"The operating engineers; just the tower crane alone, they're so essential to moving materials around the site," DeVries said. "Doing a concrete pour for example, those cranes bring the concrete up to the multiple floors. So without that crane operator, there's only so much you can do on a site. Other trades can work around it for a few days, but usually that means the site is grind down to a halt pretty quickly."

DeVries says the rising cost of fuel and other products was a concern for members in rejecting the deal.

"It's unprecedented. I haven't seen this in 30 years of negotiation. Usually we come to an agreement and they get ratified," DeVries said. "Nobody has seen inflation like this in 30 years."

The Construction Labour Relations of Ontario says talks continue with the union representing crane and heavy equipment operators.

DeVries says the strike by crane operators and heavy equipment operators is having a domino effect on contract talks with other unions in the construction sector.

Labourers and plumbers have been holding ratification votes this week.

With files from CTV Northern Ontario's Lyndsay Aelick