Painters stage protest
Use of non-union contractor irks union members
Unionized painters protested outside Cape Breton University this week because a nonunion contractor is doing work on one of the university’s buildings.
The building, the MacDonald Residence, is leased by the International Centre for English Academic Preparation. Multiple calls to ICEAP were not returned by press time.
Steven Fortune Painting, also known as Steve’s Painting and Renovations, which is owned by Steve Fortune obtained the painting contract.
“Since this building was built, it was built union. It is maintained union, the teachers in here are union and all the construction work that goes on is usually given union,” explained Keith Fougere, spokesperson for International Union of Painters and Allied Trades local 1945, while on the information picket line this week.
“Union workers are trained. They do a good job … Chances are the guys that are in that building don’t even have their WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System).”
The WHMIS training follows federal and provincial regulations and teaches people things like how to recognize materials that may react dangerously, how to spot toxic materials and substances like mould and how to deal with flammable materials. “It’s very important to have this training because you don’t know what you are handling. You could be around mould and you don’t know what it is. It might not affect you today but it could affect you 10 years down the road, same as asbestos,” Fougere explained.
Fougere said he asked Fortune to join the union if his company was going to continue to bid on commercial contracts but Fortune refused.
“My guys standing here protesting are all out of work. They want to feed their families and make a good wage ... Not what some of these guys are getting paid. That’s criminal. It should be illegal, actually,” Fougere said.
Keeping employees working is one of the reasons Fortune keeps bidding on commercial contracts.
“I have staff that I support, through their pay and through the work. Where the work is, is where I want to be,” he said.
“If the union wants us off the site… there’s no work for my employees so we’re kind of in the same boat.”
Fortune employs on average eight people at a time and has four people working on the ICEAP job.
“I pay a fair wage to my employees and the longer they are with me, the more they make … everyone is making more than minimum wage,” he said.
Fortune declined comment when asked if his employees received benefits or recognized training like WHMIS.
He did say they conduct “toolbox meetings” every morning to review safety issues, employee concerns and issues they may have had the previous day.
Becky Chisholm, spokesperson for CBU, confirmed that ICEAP hired outside contractors because CBU’s facilities workforce couldn’t do the work requested within the allotted time frame.
From left, Gary Boudreau waves at a car honking in support of the unionized painters protesting outside Cape Breton University this week. Beside him are Kevin Penney, Gerald Phillippo and Gerald Boudreau. The painters, members of International Union of Painters and Allied Trades local 1945, staged an information picket to protest the use of a non-union contractor.