Construction workers’ strike slows progress on Côté Gold project

About 40 to 70 members of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793 are on strike, joining a province-wide effort in response to failed labor negotiations

With the rising cost of just about everything they care about most, Local 793 of the International Union of Operating Engineers is on strike.

A few dozen union members were seen picketing the Kingsway earlier today, where company representative Kirk Fournier said collective bargaining had failed between employees and employers.

“Based on the cost of living, inflation, fuel costs, our members just felt like they were taking too much out of pocket to do their day jobs,” he said.

Approximately 40 to 70 employees in the region are affected by the province-wide strikehe said, and there are approximately 17,500 members provincially.

Work under the provincial collective agreement includes:

  • Rental of cranes and equipment
  • Steel erection and mechanical installations
  • Drilling of foundations, piles and caissons
  • Excavation / earthwork
  • General building contractor
  • Surveying (in relation to the above types of work)

Mammoet, Northern Crane Rental, Ontario Concrete and Aecon are represented locally.

Aecon heavy equipment operator Denis Deschênes, who is also a shop steward and strike captain, said Iamgold’s Côté Gold project was badly hit by the strike, which went into effect on Monday.

The Gogama area project is “near to a standstill”, he said, noting that when people tasked with handling crucial construction stages such as erecting formwork are not present, there is not much left for anyone else to do.

The strike is an unfortunate but necessary step to “come with the times”, he said, as it has reached a point where “it is difficult to get out of bed without spending money”.

“Based on the cost of living, inflation, fuel costs, our members just felt like they were taking too much out of pocket to do their day jobs,” Fournier said.

“Construction is at its peak right now,” he said. “COVID has come but construction has never faltered, if anything it’s thriving.”

Since “it’s our back that makes the money for our employers,” he said they would like to see their wages reviewed alongside increased expenses, such as gas and room and board.

“Between the employers and our union bargaining team, there have been ongoing discussions over the past day,” Fournier said. “A lot of people here are optimistic that we won’t be here too long, but we’ll do whatever it takes to get what we need.”

Sudbury.com contacted representatives from Iamgold and Aecon, but did not receive an immediate response.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.

Alice F. Ponder