The provincial building trades will be pressing to ensure that contracts for government infrastructure projects are awarded fairly and reflect the best interests of the unionized workforce.

A two-page emergency resolution on the issue, drafted by Local 793 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, was presented and passed unanimously at an Oct. 22 meeting of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario held in Niagara Falls.

The resolution was supported by the Ontario Provincial District Council of LIUNA.

Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher told delegates at the meeting that the unionized trades have been building Ontario for 100 years and “they have done it successfully.”

The problem, he said, is that large foreign consortiums are now bidding on projects in Ontario and don’t want to work with the building trades – something which is unacceptable.

He said governments have been silent on the matter.

“What the hell is our government doing and why is our government not protecting us?” he asked. “It’s time for us to wake them up. We have questions that we want answered.”

Gallagher told delegates that the building trades need to ensure that contracts for infrastructure projects go to companies and contractors that want to work with Ontario unions.

“It’s time for us to get very, very aggressive with the government here,” he said.

The building trades will immediately undertake research into the processes and resources currently used by various levels of government in screening and selecting contractors to be awarded significant infrastructure projects.

The council will also develop proposals to ensure that the awarding of infrastructure contracts is done on a fair basis that reflects the best interests of the unionized building trade unions.

Leaders of the council will also be seeking to meet with all levels of government and all appropriate ministries for the purpose of lobbying for implementation of changes that will ensure infrastructure contracts are “assessed and awarded in a manner consistent with the history of construction and development in Ontario by unionized contractors.”

The resolution notes that the federal government announced an infrastructure stimulus fund and the Ontario government will be putting $13 billion into infrastructure projects in 2011.

The resolution states that contractors who have longstanding agreements with the building trades have historically done the work, but the political and economic stability of Canada and the infrastructure work being undertaken, has made the Canadian construction market, and Ontario in particular, the subject of increased strategic targeting by multi-national offshore companies.

The resolution states that, increasingly, the multi-nationals are seeking to import and employ individuals from out-of-country while skilled Ontario workers are ready and available to do the work.

Meanwhile, the resolution states, the request for qualifications process used by all levels of government to screen potential bidders does not clearly include consideration for the promotion of Canadian content requirements and stable labour relations, the creation of level playing fields in competition, or safeguards against going into business with contractors who discriminate against their workers.