The Ontario-wide construction strike has entered its second week, and while there have been over a dozen settlements involving various trades sectors -- and other discussions are ongoing -- there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.

“There’s nothing to be gained by having an extended strike or going to June 15 [which is when workers are legislated back to work] on any strike because it hurts everybody -- but it hurts our market the most,” Richard Lyall, President of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario, told STOREYS. “I’m hopeful, and expect and know, certain parties are already meeting again. And if they can’t ratify a deal, the outstanding issues should just be put to an arbitrator.”

Remuneration is at the heart of the strike, but the underlying issue for the general public is that for every week construction sites are down, two weeks are needed to start back up. For example, protracted strike or not, cranes and heavy machinery will require two weeks of recalibration before inspection.

Lyall says that, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the timing for a strike couldn’t be worse.

“When someone’s on strike, they’re not working or making income. They might pick up some other stuff here and there, but it’s a problem,” he said. “We do have a housing supply deficit and construction costs are up 30% over last year, and supply chains are disturbed again by what’s happening in China, etc. It’s a hard time.”

The news isn’t all dire. Over a dozen settlements have already been reached, including for the trim, landscaping, basement forming, siding, painting, and ironworker sectors.

But there will, without a doubt, be delivery delays that result from this strike, says Scott McLellan, Senior Vice President of Plaza Corp., a GTA-based developer of low- and high-rise homes, because more strikes are looming.

“There will be problems with deliveries. The carpenters are on strike now, so what does that do to the low-rise single-family housing component of the industry? There will be a big impact and the drywallers are next to strike,” McLellan said. “The only thing I can tell you is, yes, we have settled with a bunch of trades. The problem is the forming guys are still out and that literally stops your project.”

Should the strike last until June 15, McLellan says there are some labour forces in the construction industry that have quotidian absence rates of 10% and he expects that figure to grow.

“Who says they’re going to come back just because they were legislated? If guys don’t show up back to work it has an impact on our schedule,” he said.

When trades workers get back to work, it will take a while to ramp activities back up, says Taylor Rogers, Project Director at Dunpar Homes. Moreover, all the delays are being paid for by the projects’ developers, which he said will have no choice but to pass the costs onto consumers.

However, it is imperative that sites are well maintained while the trades are striking because developers will be fighting each other to procure manpower when the strike concludes.

“We have trades partners who know if they come to one of my sites and I’m ready for them, I have the material there, the units are clean, the project is clean and highly organized, and they know they can come and knock these units out of the park and be really productive, they’re going to want to come to my sites,” Rogers said.

“I’m going to make sure I’m ready for them and that’s more money in their pockets. These guys don’t want to be sitting around for six weeks. They have families to support, so I want to make sure I’ ready for them so that they can do their jobs when they do come back.”

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