Open for business | Opinion | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

To the editor,

The recent article "Hammering Away" (by Erica Butler, January 4) about the Dexel Developments YWCA job site needs some clarification on several points.

The campaign by the Carpenters, Millwrights and Allied Workers' Union actually appears to be directed towards Spears Framing Limited and not Dexel Developments. Spears Framing Limited began operating in the concrete formwork area of construction five years ago. Since that time, Spears Framing Limited job sites have been picketed consistently.

The Dexel Development YWCA site is an "open shop" where unionized and non-unionized contractors work side-by-side. While concrete formwork is an area traditionally controlled by the unionized contractors, Spears Framing Limited is an open shop contractor where both non-union and union employees are welcome to work. Under the Trade Union Act, employees are free to join a union and seek certification if that is their desire. The decision on whether or not to join a union rests solely with the employees.

Ms. Butler quotes union organizer Cathy Pike's statement that a unionized first-year apprentice carpenter would make $15 per hour at the site, whereas a non-unionized first-year apprentice carpenter would make $14 per hour. She doesn't mention that the unionized carpenter must also make weekly contributions for union dues and to the union organizing fund out of his or her wages. Based on a 40-hour workweek, that adds up to more than a dollar per hour. Also, the lowest hourly rate in the relevant collective agreement is not $15 per hour, as Ms. Pike suggests; a first-year union apprentice carpenter makes roughly $11 per hour under that agreement.

Ms. Butler and Ms. Pike both imply that open shops are less safe for workers. This is untrue. Health and safety laws apply equally to unionized and non-unionized companies, and all companies are responsible for the safety of their workers on the job. Spears Framing is proud of its safety record.

By Darrell Spears, president Spears Framing Limited

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