Going up? 1 stumbling block remains in elevator strike, say employers

Wage issue has been settled, but seniority issue is keeping 1,400 workers on picket lines in Ontario: NEEA

There’s only one issue standing in the way of getting broken elevators moving again in Ontario, according to the association representing employers performing Industrial Commercial-Institutional (ICI) construction.

What’s the issue? “Reasonable modification to seniority,” according to the National Elevator Escalator Association (NEEA). About 1,400 repair workers represented by the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) have been on strike since May 1.

The pay issue has been settled, NEEA said. The current elevator mechanic wage of $112,000 a year is rising to $121,000 — something it called a “significant increase to hourly wages.”

Seniority issue

NEEA wants a change from industry seniority to individual company seniority. It says the elevator and escalator industry is the only construction trade in Ontario that allows workers to carry seniority between different employers.

“In order to improve safety, training and improved product knowledge, NEEA is proposing that the industry move from industry seniority to individual company seniority,” it said in a press release.

According to NEEA, industry seniority was arbitrated into collective agreements in Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia and British Columbia in the mid-1970s. But in every province but Ontario, NEEA and the union have agreed to either eliminate, grandfather or move seniority to separate collective agreements, it said.

NEEA represents its members — KONE, Otis, Schindler and ThyssenKrupp Elevator. It says more than 95 per cent of all the elevators and escalators maintained by these organizations continue to be fully operational at this time.

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