Organizations representing the construction industry’s businesses and labour outside of the conventional organized labour system are asking Sault Ste. Marie’s city council to support a motion from Coun. Matthew Shoemaker to look deeper into the costs and impact that closed tendering is having on its citizens and finances.
Under current rules, the city can only allow contractors that are signatories of two unions—the International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and the Labourers International Union of North America—to work on municipal projects.
Sault taxpayers are being over charged by as much as 30 per cent each year for construction projects, according to the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA).
“There’s plenty of good research that shows Sault taxpayers are getting soaked on every single city construction project,” said PCA spokesperson Karen Renkema. “When local taxpayers are paying between 20 to 30 per cent more than they should for local projects there’s something seriously wrong. It’s about time that changed.”
Ontario’s outdated labour laws make construction work more expensive in the Sault by forcing the city to award all projects to contractors affiliated with two unions only, PCA says “Any local companies and workers who aren’t affiliated with those unions are not allowed to bid or work on the projects, no matter how qualified they are. Research from the Cardus think tank shows this lack of competition drives up construction costs in the Sault by as much as 20 to 30 percent each year – with taxpayers footing the bill.”
“The $6.5 million civic centre facelift is a perfect example of just how unfair things are for taxpayers, local companies and workers,” Renkema said in a statement. “Taxpayers will be overcharged by at least $1 million on this project and many local companies and skilled workers will have no chance to work on that project. How fair is that?”
The current rules prevent many local companies and their workers from working on projects like the court house or improvements to the water treatment facilities, Sault Online has reported. PAC and the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), which represents employees of companies through an interdisicplinary model, assert that, according to many studies, this also drives up the costs of these taxpayer-funded projects.
“This is an issue of both cost and fairness,” Sault Online quoted CLAC representative Ian DeWaard as saying. “The current tendering restrictions are preventing local contractors from bidding on public projects and this is fundamentally wrong. All qualified union and non-union companies should have the right to bid on publicly funded projects. Fair and open tendering is the only way to give residents the right to work in their own community and to achieve maximum value for money on municipal projects.”
“CLAC is calling on all councillors to support this resolution so they can get the facts they need to make an informed decision about next steps,” says DeWaard. “We believe that the study will show that when particular unions are able to monopolize work that is paid for by municipal governments, costs go up and public dollars buy less of the needed additions, refurbishments, and infrastructure replacements.”