WE HAVE MOVED: Please visit The Union News blog: here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Carpenters strike halts school construction

A construction strike has stopped work on some parts of Sir William Osler Elementary School on Governor's Road.

It's not clear if the construction delay will mean the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board won't meet its opening target of September 2007, or where students at Central Park and Dundas District schools will go next year if the new school isn't ready. But it appears at least no concrete can be poured, bricks laid, or carpentry work done at the new school until the work stoppage ends. Some other work continues, but even that might be affected.

School board staff did not respond to a request for information by deadline, but two representatives of the Labourer's International Union of North America did try to explain what the complicated situation involving several different unions and construction companies might mean for the new elementary school.

"The strike does affect this site in that the general contractor is bound to the LIUNA provincial collective agreement," said Leo D'Agostini, a LIUNA international representative based in Hamilton. "All work traditionally performed by labourers will not be performed until a settlement is reached."

But exactly what type of work is traditionally done by LIUNA members at the new school, and how much of that remains to be done, is still unknown. And no one, from the school board, to the union, to the construction companies involved and the Ontario government, will clearly say what work has been completed, what needs to be done, what work can be done - or if the project will be completed on time.

Mr. D'Agostini said the Ontario Labour Relations Board designates specific work to LIUNA members, and none of that work can be done during the work stoppage.

Tim Parker of the Ontario Labour Relations Board did not respond to several telephone calls and emails.

But Ricardo Persi, secretary-treasurer of Hamilton local 835 of LIUNA said all bricklaying, concrete and carpentry workers are represented by the union.

The union also represents workers who installed sewer works to the new school, but Mr. Persi said that part of the project has already been completed. That was verified by Tambro Construction president Bert Tami. While the construction company first denied having any involvement with the construction of Sir William Osler School, Mr. Tami later confirmed Tambro was involved in both site development and site servicing. Sewer installation, storm pipe systems and initial site grading prior to excavation were all done by Tambro Construction.

"It's all completed," Mr. Tami said. "We waited the longest time for some approvals for the watermain, that's going in now. That's why we've been involved so long."

Mr. Tami and one of his staff members said Jasper Construction Corporation is the company apparently responsible for the construction of Sir William Osler Elementary school. A Jasper Construction sign, much smaller than the main Tambro Construction sign, is on the constrution site. But neither Jasper Construction president John Appugliesi or vice president Joseph Zinni responded to telephone calls or emails by deadline. Work not covered by the LIUNA collective agreement could also be affected, according to Mr. D'Agostini.

"It is entirely up to the other trades on site as to whether or not they will perform work under their jurisdiction," he said. "If the stoppage continues we can estimate that other trades work may be affected."

In the short term, LIUNA is not planning any regular picketing of its construction sites.

But Mr. Persi said an information picket was held at the Dundas school construction site last week because there was an issue with someone doing work assigned to them by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

LIUNA will watch the site to see if that happens again.

"If we find someone doing our work. We will set up a picket there again," Mr. Persi said, adding the other trades have so far been considerate of the fact LIUNA members are on strike.