With the rising cost of just about everything their chief concern, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793 is on strike.
A couple-dozen members of the union were seen picketing The Kingsway in Sudbury on Wednesday, where business representative Kirk Fournier said that collective bargaining negotiations had broken down between employees and employers.
“Based on cost of living, inflation, fuel costs, our members were just feeling they were taking too much out of their own pockets in order to do their day-to-day work,” he said.
Approximately 40 to 70 local area employees are affected by the provincewide strike action, he said, and there are approximately 17,500 members provincially.
Work falling under the provincial collective agreement includes:
- crane and equipment rental;
- steel erection and mechanical installations;
- foundation, piling and caisson boring;
- excavation/earth moving;
- general contractor construction;
- and surveying (in connection with the above types of work).
Companies Mammoet, Northern Crane Rental, Ontario Concrete, and Aecon are represented locally.
Aecon heavy equipment operator Denis Deschenes, who also serves as union steward and strike captain, said that Iamgold’s Côté Gold Project has been heavily impacted by the strike action, which took effect on Monday.
The project, approximately 175 kilometres northwest of Sudbury, is “close to a halt,” he said, noting that when those in charge of taking care of crucial construction steps such as erecting forms aren’t present, there’s not much left for anyone else to do.
The strike action is an unfortunate but necessary step to “come with the times,” he said, as it has reached a point where “it’s hard to get out of bed without spending money.”
“Based on cost of living, inflation, fuel costs, our members were just feeling they were taking too much out of their own pockets in order to do their day-to-day work,” Fournier said.
“Construction is at its greatest peak right now,” he said. “COVID came but construction never faltered; if anything, it’s flourishing.”
Since “it’s our backs that make the money for our employers,” he said they’d like to see their salaries reviewed alongside rising expenses, such as gasoline and room and board.
“Between the employers and our union negotiating team, there have been discussions ongoing in the last day,” Fournier said. “Many people here are optimistic we won’t be out here too long, but we’re going to do what it takes to get what we need.”
Sudbury.com reached out to Iamgold and Aecon representatives but did not receive an immediate response.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.