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 earlier today, 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 province-wide 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
- 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.
An Iamgold spokesperson clarified on Thursday the strikers' impact on the Côté Gold Project.
"On Monday, the international union of operating engineers went on strike. This represents a small proportion of our workforce, about 35 of the 950 people at site, in the areas of crane operations and certain segments of concrete pouring and delivery. Work continues on all other facets of construction and project advancement.
"The union works under a provincial collective agreement and we are hopeful that an agreement can be successfully negotiated between the parties in the short-term."*
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.
* This response by Iamgold was added on Thursday afternoon, after this story was originally published on Wednesday.