PART ONE: THE BEGINNING
Recommendation became reality in June 1993. It was at the conclusion of a 3-year process that began when Ontario’s Construction Industry Advisory Board – comprised of labour and management representatives from the unionized construction industry – asked the Province’s Minister of Labour to review and comment on the effectiveness of province-wide bargaining. At the time, province-wide bargaining had existed for about 12 years, having been established in 1978.
Labour Minister Bob MacKenzie – in the NDP Government of Bob Rae – chose George Adams – a prominent labour relations lawyer – to conduct the review. Adams travelled and talked to industry representatives and collected information on how well province-wide bargaining was working. During his research, Adams discovered that when parties went to the bargaining table, they didn’t seem to have a lot of factual information that they were using to support their positions.
Upon concluding his review, Adams offered a group of recommendations that included the establishment of a Secretariat with two mandates: the collection of bona fide statistics on the construction industry and using the statistics when labour and management met to discuss industry strengths and weaknesses. Adams also recommended that province-wide bargaining be held every three years instead of the current two years.
The recommendation was picked up by the head of the Building Trades Council and the head of the Construction Employers Coordinating Council of Ontario (CECCO). Each conferred with their constituents and following an all-day conference, endorsed the idea which ultimately gave birth to Bill 80 – the Labour Relations Amendment Act of 1993. The Act formed the basis of some legislative amendments – one of which was to set up a procedure for establishing a construction secretariat. The Ontario Construction Secretariat was officially established in June 1993.
Two members from the initial Board of Directors remain members of the Board today – Pat Dillon, the Business Manager and Secretary Treasurer of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, and Jerry Meadows, a Senior Policy Advisor for the Ministry of Labour.
Meadows says the formation of the Secretariat was good for the unionized construction industry.
“Various parties had a history of pretty conflictual negotiations in the 1980’s. However over the last 25 years, the collective bargaining process has seen fewer disruptions and in the past decade particularly, the degree to which it appears labour and management can work out their differences has been improved.”
Both Meadows and Dillon were present when labour and management first came together February 16th and 17th at the Toronto Airport Hilton for the Construction Industry Secretariat’s Founding Conference. A total of 95 construction industry and government representatives attended what Dillon called “an historic event”.
It was at the Conference that a third mandate was adopted by both labour and management – that being the Secretariat would promote the unionized construction industry. In his capacity as President of the Council, Dillon told the attendees the steps they were considering during the two days were “unprecedented and long overdue”.
“Labour and management in the unionized construction industry need a forum to discuss the ills and strengths of our industry at times other than those few months preceding collective bargaining”.
That’s not to say there weren’t any growing pains during the early days of the Secretariat. Meadows recalls there were a lot of factors that were not helpful in terms of peaceful labour relations in the (construction) industry at the time, including high interest rates “which sort of knocked the socks” out of the construction industry.
Dillon referenced the economic climate of the day at the Conference.
“We fully recognize the present sad state of the industry as it relates to employment and job opportunities for workers and the added costs of contracts for employers. Difficult times however, require difficult solutions. The foundation that we collectively lay today, can only help us to make our industry stronger.”
25 years later, the OCS continues to play an important role in a strong and vibrant unionized ICI construction industry, providing important and relevant data and information to both labour and management.
Throughout the next twelve months, you will see our anniversary logo [below] used in various places including our website as well as on promotional literature and items. Our eNewsletter will feature monthly articles looking back on our history with photos and interviews of present and past Board members and staff. We’ll also be using our social media platforms regularly to promote and share our history.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS)
180 Attwell Drive, Suite 360, Toronto, ON M9W 6A9
P 416.620.5210 ext. 222