Elevator strikers escalate tactics

Union says association is standing in the way of a new collective bargaining agreement

Published on April 17, 2017

Members of the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 125A picketed outside the office of North Atlantic on Monday after learning about replacement workers scheduled to complete a job inside. The union has been on strike for close to six months and blames the Construction Labour Relations Association for delaying the signing of a new collective bargaining agreement.

©Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

A group of striking elevator workers took their fight to the ground floor on a rainy Monday morning in St. John’s.

Close to a dozen members of the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 125A turned out at the North Atlantic offices on Pippy Place in an attempt to stop replacement workers from completing a job inside.

“They’re trying to conduct an inspection on an elevator there today and they’ve got replacement workers from out of the province who I can guarantee you are getting paid more than we would be if we were at it,” local vice-president Greg Wade said.

The union employed a similar tactic outside the Sheraton Hotel earlier this year. Earlier this month, the union got hit with a court injunction preventing it from picketing outside the home of Terry French, president of the Construction Labour Relations Association (CLRA).

Wade says it’s the CLRA, not the elevator companies — Otis and ThyssenKrupp — that is the main stumbling block in contract negotiations that have been ongoing since late October.

“You think you’d have an ideal situation if you have a company saying we’re willing to pay you money and then there’s a third party saying, ‘wait a minute, we’re not willing to let them pay you that money,’” explains Wade, one of 18 union members from this province, 16 of whom are based in St. John’s, with two in Corner Brook.

“The CLRA, who represent all the unionized contractors in town, don’t want to sign off on it.”

While the maintenance-sector contract is settled, the lack of resolution in constructor-sector talks is what’s drawing the contract into the seven-month range. According to Wade, the CLRA wants to see a zero per cent increase over the first two years, with wage openers in the third, fourth and fifth year.

With a current consumer price index of 2.34 per cent, Wade says that’s untenable.
“In order to have a good relationship, we should have a five-year contract and a wage at least as good as they got across Canada. They’re already settled in three other provinces with no problems,” says Wade.
“We want one contract for our union with equal pay.”

This is the union’s third strike in 10 years, and they’re prepared to keep striking, Wade says.

“When you’ve got this much time invested into negotiations and a labour dispute, you’ve got to carry on. It’s pointless to give up now.”

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