On Thursday, June 22 the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) rendered their decision to settle the collective agreement between IBEW 213 and Ledcor Technical Solutions (LTS), accepting all of the union’s proposals except for duration.
Workers at LTS, who were certified back in the summer of 2017, finally have a collective agreement that provides significant improvements to job security, health and welfare and pension benefits.
“This decision by the CIRB to finalize the collective agreement is further vindication of our position from day one more than five years ago when we started bargaining with Ledcor,” said Assistant Business Manager Robin Nedila. “The company lied to their employees, bargained in bad faith and tried its best to avoid a collective agreement.”
LTS argued fervently for an open shop. The Board flatly rejected the employer’s proposal. “The employer maintains positions concerning the importance of employee choice in membership,” writes the Board “without supporting facts.”
On wages, LTS proposed a two-tiered wage raise, with 40 per cent of the workers receiving just 0.5 percent increase in the first year, and “to be determined” for all workers in the second year of the agreement.
LTS attempted to justify their position, stating “The union’s proposed wage rates would render LTS uncompetitive” but as the Board notes, offered no evidence to support their claim.
“The Board characterizes LTS’s proposal as a willingness to pay issue as opposed to an ability to pay issue. LTS does not plead poverty before the Board. Its primary concerns are that it must make a reasonable rate of return […]. The Board has no idea what LTS considers a reasonable rate of return.”
On duration, the Board imposed a two-year agreement in keeping with Section 80(4) of the Code. We had asked for four years; LTS proposed three. This means we will be back at the bargaining table sooner than either party would like.
“We are pleased with the result but frustrated in the length of time to get here,” said Nedila. “Changes are necessary to the federal code such as anti-scab legislation and improvements to first contract resolution.”
When LTS certified on August 31, 2017, there were 238 workers in the bargaining unit. That number is just 65 now.
“These workers were robbed of their constitutional right to bargain fairly,” said Business Manager Jim Lofty. “However, we are excited to finally be able to move forward and represent these workers within the terms and conditions of a collective agreement.”
Had the federal labour code anti-scab and stronger first contract resolution language, we believe LTS would never have been able to drag out this process for over half a decade.
“This has been a story about perseverance. Discouragement was surmounted by persistence, solidarity and the refusal to accept the status quo. I am honoured to continue to fight beside the brave Ledcor workers,” said past IBEW 213 Organizer, now IBEW Lead Organizer for Western Canada Dustin Brecht.
“This decision is monumental for the labour movement – marking the first time the Board has imposed an agreement since 1986 – the fact that it took nearly six years to reach this conclusion shows how much more work we have to accomplish.”
IBEW 213 continues to lobby at home and in Ottawa for changes to the federal labour code. We’ve received assurances in-person from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Minister of Labour Seamus O'Regan, and others that changes to the Code are coming soon. We say not soon enough, and we’ll keep fighting until they finally follow their words with action.