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York Region companies await end of safety inspector strike

Little impact so far, but labour dispute makes it 'hard to plan,' elevator company president says
TSSA Picket at CLE
Striking members of OPSEU Local 546 - TSSA bargaining unit picket on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022 outside the entrance to the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition. (Leith Dunick,

York Region companies are awaiting the end of a two-month-old strike for TSSA safety inspectors, but are so far managing the impact.

Overseeing elevators, amusement rides and fuels, more than 170 safety inspectors have been on strike since July 21 as they bargain for a new agreement. That has left the TSSA to handle needed safety inspections with non-union employees.

Elevator One operates several offices in York Region, including Newmarket. The president of the servicing company, Doug Guderian, said it has resulted in some slowdowns for less-critical elevators but has not had a large impact on their operations so far, with approvals still coming for things like residences. 

“They (the TSSA) are prioritizing and triaging pretty well,” he said, adding he has not found either side unreasonable in his company’s dealings with them. “I hope they figure it out and get it resolved … I’m a little perplexed about why they can’t find common ground.” 

OPSEU Local 546 cited issues that include the pay grid, vacation entitlements, union representation rights.

Bargaining unit chair Cory Knipe said they are looking to get a fair contract “so that we can get on with doing public safety, making sure everyone’s treated properly,” he said, adding that talks have stalled and they hope to get back to the table with the TSSA.

“Management has operated with a very heavy hand.”

TSSA spokesperson Alexandra Campbell said it has negotiated in good faith with the OPSEU, and has offered the union a full two-year agreement with salary increases.

“We have deep respect for our inspectors and would like to reach a deal and see them return to work. We are willing to continue to meet with OPSEU once they make a reasonable offer that is clearly aimed at reaching an agreement that could work for both parties,” Campbell said.

The two parties are scheduled to go before the Ontario Labour Relations Board at the end of the month, with the OPSEU alleging unfair labour practices. The TSSA has denied the allegations.

In the meantime, the TSSA has relied on non-union employees like supervisors to carry out inspections for things such as amusement rides. The strike did stoke fears for the Canadian National Exhibition rides, but the event did carry on with the TSSA providing the needed inspections along with CNE staff.

The Markham Fair running this upcoming weekend is also facing no inspection issues, according to a spokesperson. The rides getting handled by World’s Finest Shows were all pre-inspected by the TSSA, and management said the strike “will have no impact on the fair whatsoever.”

The strike is not yet impacting Elevator One’s finances, Guderian said. Still, he said if it drags on for several more months, the slowdowns could eventually mean they run out of work for some of their employees.

“It’s a little frustrating that we’re not hearing very much information from either side,” he said. “It’s a little hard to plan.”