Saturday, July 14, 2012

Carpenters nail new agreement

By Dalson Chen, The Windsor Star

The latest collective agreement between Ontario carpenters and their employers is proof of how "non-traditional" bargaining works in everyone's interests, says the agency that brokered the deal.

"We're partners," said employer representative Jim Lyons, chair of the Carpenters Employers Bargaining Agency. "Carpenters are very well paid, and can make a lot of money if they're gainfully employed on a fulltime basis. In order to achieve that, we sit with them and say: 'This is what we need to be successful.' And they come to the table and work with us."

Lyons said the agreement guarantees "labour peace" for carpenters until April 2016. The key was the agency's use of the "protocol" bargaining method, he said.

This approach allows negotiations to take place well before the expiry date of the existing collective agreement, on the understanding that there will be no strike on the part of the union and no lockouts on the part of the employers.

Lyons said both sides of the negotiations recognized the importance of "continuity of supply," and the agreement was reached with an attitude of co-operation rather than opposition.

"There's really no labour disruption whatsoever," Lyons said. "Therefore, the customer gets whatever we promised to build them."

Lyons noted that there hasn't been a strike by Ontario carpenters for the past 25 years.

"Carpenters are a very important trade in any construction project," he said. "It's been a quarter of a century since we've had any kind of work stoppage with the carpenters. It's a very good relationship, for sure."

Carpenters Union representative Mike Yorke, a board member with the Carpenters' District Council of Ontario, agreed that "protocol" bargaining has served carpenters well.

"We think it's been a good process," Yorke said. "It sends out a good signal to the buyers that the Carpenters Union and the employers are working together to deliver a product, on time and on budget."

Yorke pointed out that the union can still bring its issues to binding arbitration, if necessary.

"It's been positive for our members in Ontario, and the carpenters aren't afraid to show some leadership on this," Yorke said.

He said a full journeyman carpenter, under the terms of the collective agreement, who works 2,000 hours a year at about $50 an hour, has an annual income in the neighbourhood of $95,000 to $100,000.

When asked why "protocol" bargaining isn't more common in other industries - such as Windsor's auto industry - Lyons said: "Unfortunately, I think there's still an 'us against them' mentality in some unionized environments."

Lyons said in such situations where the union and the owners do battle, there's often rhetoric encouraging members to "fight for another day."

"Those types of words are not being used around our table," Lyons said.

But Dino Chiodo, president of CAW Local 444, said the no-strike premise is complicated, in his view, by the fact that it's relatively rare for unionized shops to go on strike.

"In recent history, you'd probably have more concern for a lockout from companies than you do for a strike program," he said.

Chiodo said he doesn't believe the traditional negotiation process between unions and employers makes an industry uncompetitive in the larger market.

"I think it keeps both sides honest, for lack of a better term."


  1. Here in NYC the UBC is driving nails in our coffin.

  2. what a tease! I THOUGHT we had something. i really wish i could give a shit about ONTARIO???!!!!!


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