Canadian Contractor

By Havan   

Concrete strike in Vancouver set to stall lower-mainland housing

Canadian Contractor concrete construction workers strike

The Rempel Bros. strike surrounding employee working conditions, underway since May 21, is crippling the lower-mainland’s concrete supply and the strain is being felt across the region with the residential construction industry being rocked at its core, from the foundation up.

Large commercial and industrial projects are taking precedence for deliveries of what little supply remains available, leaving the small and medium residential builders, who deliver a significant portion of our regions sorely needed housing, in a quandary.

Speaking with members of the Homebuilders Association Vancouver, CEO, Ron Rapp shares builders concern over the impact of the strike. “Members are telling me the larger concrete suppliers have advised them to not break ground on any projects planned with concrete foundations, estimating the strike could push on through September or October. Recognizing our members build 65 per cent of metro-Vancouvers homes, cancelled projects can add up quickly, with grave impact on the ability to deliver our regions desperately needed housing.”

Beyond added costs, the potential for delays to create a cascade of negative effects is real. Trades intended to follow the concrete pour sequence are multiple and schedule disruptions can lead to loss of workers who may not be available when the concrete finally is poured, further escalating costs, and exponential delays.


Rapp notes, “in Ontario after a recent strike in the same sector, many drivers and form workers did not return to work as they had secured alternate work in the interim and given B.C.s low unemployment rates, being able to retain skilled workers in a somewhat stable market is a challenge, let alone the added pressure from the strike.”

Bargaining started Jan. 7 with the most recent negotiations ending on June 8. Further negotiations are scheduled for June 20, 21 and 22.

Rapp suggests, “the two sides should bargain in good faith, however, if agreement cannot be reached, then mediation should be considered and or mandated.” A similar strike in Seattle saw a return-to-work net of an agreement, but only after many weeks of disruption, and subsequent talks between the two sides have resulted in a pending agreement that could come into effect this week. In Ontario such strikes are limited to six weeks before being directed to mediation to avoid the crippling ripple effects, but even at that, the adverse consequences are real and significant.


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