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Skilled Trades Picket Lambton College in Sarnia

April 6, 2017
Lambton College Picket

Lambton College in Sarnia is using out of town workers to build two new buildings while local workers are left out. IBEW Local 530, who has been sending apprentices to the college for years, is questioning the public procurement process that makes this possible.

On Saturday April 1, members of IBEW Local 530, UA Local 663, and Carpenters’ Union Local 1256 staged an information picket at the entrance to Lambton College. They passed out pamphlets to members of the public, which you can see below.

They are upset over the use of non-local workers to build two new large buildings, the athletics and health centres, when local skilled trades are unemployed. The projected cost for the new facilities is $36.6 million dollars.

Lambton College Picket

The pamphlet handed out at the Lambton College picket.

Southside Construction, based in London, was awarded the contract to serve as general contractor for the project, and manage the hiring for all subcontractors for electrical, plumbing, and all other construction tasks.

As a result, unemployed skilled trades have been watching non-local workers arriving by van every morning and leaving the same way at the end of the work day, according to an Observer article about the picket.

For decades, Local 530 and other skilled trade unions have been sending hundreds of apprentices to programs at Lambton. The lack of return support from the college is deeply upsetting to the membership.

In the same Observer article, a spokesperson for the College said that the winning contractor was chosen “through a publicly-offered tendering process based on Ontario’s Broader Public Sector Procurement Directive.”

Picket Draws Warm Response from the Public

“The public is on our side,” said Mick Cataford, Business Development Manager of IBEW Local 530.

“Public money is going into this project but no one knows exactly why the winning provider was chosen. They are hiding behind the rules of the procurement process, and there’s no real transparency. If there was, there would be a bid depository.”

In a bid depository system, contractors applying for the work provide proposed prices in sealed envelopes to a central receiver. Everyone bids “blind”, and this helps prevent the practice of deliberately undercutting other contractors. It is a standard procurement practice across Canada and the United States for major construction projects.

“We need more transparency,” adds Cataford. “The procurement process rules are the problem, because there are people who know how to manipulate them.”

More Information Pickets Planned

Cataford says that his membership has more information pickets planned.

“We’ll be back. I know we can’t change everything in a day, but we’ve got to change this system. We know it’s a marathon, but we’re prepared to run it.”
Read more coverage of the picket:

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