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Association voices opposition with billboards: labor legislation reforms viewed as a threat to investment in Ontario.

The province's proposed labor legislation reforms will scare investors away from Northern Ontario, warn local construction industry officials.

"The most severe effect will be lost investment in the province of Ontario. People will not want to invest in a climate where their employees are probably going to kill investment," charges Harold Martin, the Sudbury Construction Association's executive director.

"The whole thing is a wish list from the unions. The object is to have all industries organize. If one of the major trade unions were to unionize one of the chain stores, like Beckers, then all chain stores will be unionized. I certainly wouldn't want to open a business if it was going to be immediately unionized," Martin adds.

However, union officials in the construction industry claim the reforms will have little impact on that sector because the legislation is aimed at certifying workers in the industrial, retail and service sectors.

"I don't really believe it will be a big factor with us," says Art Adams, the business manager with the Labourer's International Union of North America Local 493 in Sudbury. "I guess I see the reforms affecting the industrial sector instead of the construction sector."

Adams claims that employers who treat their employees fairly will probably not have to deal with unions.

"There are some contractors I can't organize because they treat their employees fairly well," he says. "People joining or forming unions are usually dissatisfied with the treatment by their employer."

Larry Lineham also believes the reforms will have little impact on the construction sector. However, the business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1687 in Sudbury believes that some of the proposed reforms are long overdue.

Both union officials express a belief that investors will benefit from hiring unionized employees.

"It's a proven fact that the unionized sector is better trained. If the contractor is unionized, he has access to a better workforce," claims Lineham.

"Due to our safety training they (contractors) will also experience lower WCB (Workers' Compensation Board) costs. I think that would be an advantage," he adds.

However, Martin argues that investors believe unions add to their labor costs. Claiming that Sudbury is already perceived as unionized, he says, "We've seen North Bay get industry Sudbury could have had."

The construction association claims that 295,000 jobs could be lost in the province if the labor reforms become law. The estimate, Martin says, is based on a phone poll of Ontario businesses.

The association recently erected two billboards which urge people to voice opposition to the reforms to Northern Development and Mines Minister Shelley Martel and provincial Treasurer Floyd Laughren.

"We disagree with the government's idea that a worker in Ontario isn't happy unless he's with a union. I think the whole thing that upsets our industry the most is that there was peace," says Martin.

Union officials, meanwhile, support the proposed legislation because it would block a business from countering a union certification drive.

"It eliminates the possibility for the employer to solicit opposition through threats. I think if that (legislation) happens, it will make it (certification) more expedient," says Lineham.
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Title Annotation:Construction Report; Council of Ontario Construction Associations
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:May 1, 1992
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