Why carpenters in Windsor-Essex-Kent are on strike

Picket lines went up at two construction sites in Windsor Monday, after local members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America rejected the employers latest contract offer.

Locally, it means 651 people are now on strike.

“There is nothing on this earth without a carpenter,” Shawn Ramey, president of Local 494 tells CTV News in a phone interview Monday.

Ramey says 90 per cent of the local members who cast a ballot, voted against the contract. Provincially, it was rejected by 75 per cent of the membership, according to Ramey.

“It literally comes down to the rising cost of living and inflation,” says Ramey.

He says his members work at approximately 30 sites across the region, working on industrial, commercial and institutional projects.

Ramey says they represent three different kinds of trades: general carpenter, acoustic technician (eg. drywall installation) and resilient floor laying.

The union bargains provincial through Carpenters District Council of Ontario (CDCO). They negotiate with the Construction Labour Relations Association of Ontario (CLRAO).

The Windsor Construction Association declined to comment on the labour disruption.

In a statement released Monday, the Carpenters Employer Bargaining Agency (CEBA) expressed “disappointment” with the strike.

They say the contract was accepted by the union’s negotiators and was not forced upon the members.

“These negotiations resulted in province-wide settlements that were agreed upon by all the Carpenters locals, who also recommended these settlements to their membership for ratification,” the statement reads.

“At no point did the CEBA force a final offer or otherwise unilaterally impose an offer on the Carpenters to ratify amongst their membership. We negotiated in good faith with the union to secure a fair deal that failed to ratify, and any suggestion to the contrary would simply not be factual.”

One of the picket lines setup Monday was at the site of the new Catholic Central High School on McDougall Street in Windsor.

Despite the picket line, work continued on the project.

In a statement to CTV News, officials with the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board wrote, “Any time there's a strike we are concerned about the possibility that it might delay certain projects, however we respect the rights of workers to follow the process in order to reach a collective agreement. We'll continue to monitor the situation closely and hope for a speedy solution.”

The Greater Essex County District School Board was impacted as well.

“The GECDSB supports the collective bargaining process and workers’ right to engage in legal strike actions,” a spokesperson writes in a statement.

“The current labour dispute involving the Carpenters District Council of Ontario is impacting some of our school construction sites on Monday, May 9 and could have implications on current building schedules. We are hopeful of a swift resolution to this negotiation.”

Officials with the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority confirm the strike is impacting “specific activities, while other work is continuing to progress across all four project components.”

Tara Carson goes on to write “WDBA understands that this labour issue is being addressed in accordance with labour laws and does not involve WDBA, BNA, or our project partners. “