The General Contractors’ Association of Toronto (GCAT) and the Golden Horseshoe General Contractors’ Association (GHGCA) have published an industry paper calling on the Government of Ontario to update the Labour Relations Act (LRA).

Planning for Ontario’s Building Boom: Ontario’s Construction Industry and the Need to Reform the Labour Relations Act, outlines the specific changes required to enable the construction sector to meet the province’s building needs in the upcoming years.

Ontario’s construction sector – already accounting for about eight per cent of Ontario’s GDP – is vitally important to Ontario’s economic prosperity and will play a critical role in delivering on Ontario’s Plan to Build. However, Build Force Canada’s 2023-2032 Construction Maintenance Looking Forward report for Ontario projects the industry will need over 100,000 new workers over the next 10 years – an additional 36,300 workers just to keep up with construction demands, while 82,600 people currently in the sector are expected to retire during this period.

The associations’ shared goal is to solve for the current challenges the sector faces and carve a path forward that will help Ontario meet its building needs and demands. The construction sector provisions in the LRA provide a foundation for building in Ontario, and the Act should be updated to reflect today’s construction sector.

“The Labour Relations Act is largely unchanged since the early 1980s, no longer representing the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) construction sector we have today,” said Jim Vlahos, executive director of GCAT. “This outdated legislation mandates contract lengths that do not match up with how long many projects now take and potentially generates work stoppages that can drag out project timelines and influence the increase of project costs.”

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The associations are specifically calling for the revitalization of the ICI Construction Sector provisions in the LRA. The proposed changes include:

  1. Encourage longer-term planning by lengthening the term of collective agreements to four years,
  2. Provide a greater framework to collective bargaining, similar to the one that already exists in the residential construction sector in the GTA,
  3. Improve the grievance process and optimize the resources of the Ontario Labour Relations Board,
  4. Establish “special commercial and institutional” conditions covering smaller-scale commercial and institutional projects to restore competitiveness,
  5. Recognize, in statute, that a lack of qualified sub-contractors is a situation that can give rise to a competitive disadvantage for contractors, and
  6. Enhance the provisions regarding “Project Labour Agreements” such that any project which receives Provincial Government funding of $5 Million or more must have one in place.

“Today, smaller projects are not competitive for unionized labour. We have consulted with our union partners to ensure overall industry support,” said Jason Ball, president of Ball Construction and Board Member of GHGCA. “The key takeaway from these discussions has been that the recommendations provided will improve and help to grow the unionized ICI construction sector, increasing the ability for the sector to build more effectively and efficiently.”

Featured image: (Getty Images)


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