Clock is ticking on construction negotiations
Published Friday, May 26, 2017 12:17PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 26, 2017 9:12PM EDT
Negotiations to end Quebec's province-wide construction strike are entering a critical phase.
The Quebec government has warned that back-to-work legislation will be tabled early next week if the strike has not ended.
Both sides in the dispute are back at the bargaining table hoping to avoid back-to-work legislation which could come as early as next week, each side worried it could be on the losing end of any back-to-work law.
“It's like a Pandora's box. We won't know what's going to be in there and in the past it has favoured the workers,” said Eric Cote of the Quebec Construction Association.
“I never heard a special law from the government in the past 10 to 15 years that's going to help the worker,” countered Michel Trepanier, construction union spokesperson.
The striking construction workers made sure they were seen and heard Friday as protests took place outside an annual golf tournament in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu
Several hundred construction workers booed and jeered as members of the Quebec Construction Association arrived to take part in an annual golf tournament.
Workers were not impressed that managers and company owners were continuing with the event despite the strike.
"During the week we work, and they're playing golf. That's the reality," said one worker. "They want to impose a special law on us, and they're laughing in our faces. Who is the mean one?"
Other workers pointed out the tournament would be partially tax deductible.
"They have cocktails, champagne, caviar, and we work like crazy," said one.
Negotiations resumed Thursday evening and continued well until the wee hours, although talks did not focus on monetary issues.
Talks resumed Friday afternoon and, with the aid of four conciliators, both sides are discussing salary and working conditions.
If the talks break down and back-to-work legislation is forced, Quebec solidaire has promised to stand opposed.
“It's not a way to negotiate to have this Sword of Damocles on your head,” said MNA Manon Masse, though there is nothing the party can do to block the legislation.
It's estimated the strike by 175,000 workers is costing the Quebec economy $45 million a day.
Both sides agree the time to reach an argeeement is now.
“The clock is ticking,” said Trepanier.
“I'm just hoping that we can put a reset on it and try to work as a global agreement for everybody,” said Cote.