As a result of efforts by Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher over the last four years, the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario (PBCTCO) voted unanimously at its 60th annual convention recently to amend its Constitution and Bylaws to promote mutual respect for the core jurisdiction of each other’s trade.

In light of the resolution, the executive board of Local 793 passed a motion on Oct. 16 in favour of Gallagher meeting with PBCTCO business manager and secretary-treasurer Pat Dillon to discuss the possibility of the union re-joining the organization.

Local 793 had left the PBCTCO in September 2013 because it was faced with 10 jurisdictional disputes (JDs) at various stages of the process with affiliates of the Building Trades regarding work done by Operating Engineers. In other words, many of the other trades weren’t respecting the core jurisdiction of Local 793 members.

The disputes were with the Carpenters, Pipefitters, Labourers, Ironworkers and Electrical Workers. All these disputes have now been settled.

Gallagher sent a letter to Dillon on Sept. 4, 2013 clearly explaining why Local 793 would not longer be attending building trades meetings.

In the letter, he stated that the unity required at the PBCTCO to face challenges is non-existent.

“We are currently faced with a large number of jurisdictional disputes regarding our work, with some of our affiliates to the building trades,” he stated. “We therefore feel that our time is best spent representing our members and protecting our jobs rather than listening to reports at the building trades meetings.”

In the letter, he said the decision was not made lightly but was the right decision at the time, as there did not seem to be any resolve to the matter.

Gallagher noted it is interesting that at a time when construction unions faced a number of challenges, such as CLAC and right-to-work challenges, some affiliates seemed more interested in doing work other than their own.

PBCTCO business manager Dillon responded with a letter on Sept. 9, 2013, stating that he agreed that JDs are completely counter-productive to the overall mission of the building trades.

He noted that the Operating Engineers were a key part of the establishment of the PBCTCO and fragmentation has the potential to negatively impact the lives of construction workers and their families in a number of ways.

Since leaving the PBCTCO, Gallagher has had informal discussions with Dillon about the issue and actions by the Building Trades on Local 793’s request. Throughout, he made it clear on a number of occasions Local 793 would not re-join the Building Trades until there was an amendment to the organization’s Constitution, requiring trades to have mutual respect for each other’s core jurisdiction.

Gallagher and Local 793 president Joe Redshaw were invited as guests to the PBCTCO annual convention in Niagara Falls on Oct. 12.

At the meeting, the executive board of the PBCTCO presented the resolution to amend the organization’s Constitution and Bylaws.

The purpose, as stated in the resolution, is to “promote industrial peace among building and construction trades through mutual respect of each other’s core jurisdiction.”

The resolution states that solidarity among the Building Trades is a core principle of organized labour in Ontario’s construction industry and that JDs between PBCTCO unions cost members millions of dollars per year in legal and other fees, in addition to incalculable reputational damage.

If those same resources were devoted to organizing and growing the number of represented workers in the construction industry, the resolution states, the collective voice of all construction workers would be much more formidable in the province’s political and economic life.

The resolution states that a working committee of Building Trades representatives from each affiliated union, engaging an industry-respected mediator/facilitator, will determine the precise language of respect for each other’s core jurisdiction.

In light of the resolution, Gallagher will now meet with Dillon to talk about how the union and PBCTCO might re-affiliate.

If the terms are acceptable, Gallagher will present a recommendation to Local 793’s executive board for approval.

While the precise language must still be determined, Gallagher said the resolution passed by the PBCTCO is a step in the right direction.

“This will mark the beginning of discussions, but the Building Trades appear to have stepped up and made good on their commitment to address our concerns.”

Gallagher said he looks forward to working with the PBCTCO working committee, and perhaps re-joining the organization, as a provincial election looms next year.

“We are obviously much stronger when the building trades are united,” he said. “There will be a provincial election next spring and it makes sense for us to come together as a cohesive group.”