The Ontario government is no longer supporting a private member’s bill designed to aid construction giant EllisDon. Premier Kathleen Wynne made the announcement under questioning from NDP leader Andrea Horwath in legislative assembly on Oct. 2.
Bill 74 — which would free EllisDon from a recently discovered 1958 collective agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 586 and the Ontario Sheet Metal Workers and Roofers Conference (OSMWRC) Local 539 — would allow the company to continue to hire both union and non-union workers outside of the Toronto area.
The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) previously ruled to maintain the 1958 agreement — restricting the company to hiring only unionized workers province-wide — but gave EllisDon two years to seek legal remedy. A recent ruling from a divisional court overturned the OLRB’s decision.
“Last Friday the divisional court made a ruling that quashed the decision of the OLRB,” Wynne said. “The company can continue to operate under the status quo… I’ve been advised that this ruling achieves exactly the same outcome that was being sought by the member opposite’s private member’s bill.”
Because the ruling allows EllisDon to continue hiring both union and non-union workers, Wynne said Bill 74 is “no longer needed. We will not be supporting it. I will not be supporting it, assuming the decision is not appealed.”
The unions have 15 days to appeal the court’s decision. The Toronto Star reported that OSMWRC Local 539 plans to seek leave for appeal.
James Barry, business manager for IBEW Local 586, said the union has not yet decided whether it will appeal the divisional court’s decision.
“We understand the implications,” Barry told Canadian Labour Reporter. “We’re just waiting to see what other things fall out in the next few days. We’re talking with legal counsel and we’re going to decide what we’re going to do.”
While Wynne said an appeal of the divisional court’s decision may affect the party’s withdraw of support, Barry said he was not surprised by the Premier’s choice to step away from Bill 74.
“To me, they made a bad mistake in the first place by getting involved in this and I think now they’ve realized they probably shouldn’t have gotten involved,” he said.
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