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April 27, 2007

Drywallers ratify new contract

TORONTO

The unionized drywall industry in Ontario has just ratified a three-year collective agreement with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

The agreement is less interesting for its contents than for the way it was negotiated — amicably over a six-month period. The current agreement expires May 1.

Negotiations between the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario (ISCA), the IUPAT and the carpenters union commenced last November.

Bargaining that far in advance of an agreement’s expiry is unheard of in the construction sector.

“I think it is the first time that unions and employers were sincere about the collective bargaining process,” said Bill Nicholls, business manager and secretary treasurer of the IUPAT District Council 46 and president of the Ontario Council of Painters.

“It shows good faith between employers and unions in a partnership to ratify a deal.

“What’s really important here is that the employers can do their pricing now for the upcoming construction season,” said Nicholls.

“They know what their costs are for labour, materials and supplies.”

Historically, collective agreements in the sector have sometimes gone unsigned well into the summer when construction peaks.

The new agreement sees a hike in wage rates by $3.80 an hour in the ICI drywall sector — a nine per cent increase in Ontario, said Nicholls.

Piecework residential wallers see a 10 per cent wage increase.

ISCA represents over 90 contractors and 30 suppliers/manufacturers throughout Ontario that employ over 10,000 members.

Also, the painters and allied trades union completed negotiations early for the other two of its bargaining units — the paint contractors and glass contractors that do curtainwall, architectural glass and metal.

Two bargaining units remain at the table to negotiate a wage reopener which is aimed at being comparable to the ICI collective agreement, said Nicholls.

The two are the residential painters and the Electrical Power Systems Contractors Association which ratified a six-year collective agreement in May 2004.

Nicholls doesn’t expect any major hurdles to reach an agreement.

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