Tentative deal reached with unions in Quebec residential construction strike

MONTREAL – A tentative deal has been reached between striking construction unions and companies in Quebec’s homebuilding sector.

The residential sector deal announced late Tuesday afternoon follows an agreement in principle between the unions and the civil engineering and road construction sector a day earlier.

The unions hailed the deal, saying a negotiated settlement is always preferable to confrontation.

“After more than a week on strike, residential workers will be glad to return to their work sites on Wednesday morning,” said union spokesman Yves Ouellet in a statement.

“Deadlines are tight, but we hope to be able to meet the commitments for families awaiting the delivery of a home in the coming days.”

Premier Pauline Marois had warned the two sides in the strike that her patience had limits and she didn’t completely rule out a legislated end to the dispute.

A deal has yet to be reached in the industrial and commercial sectors.

The provincial government has been reluctant to estimate the cost of the strike, which began June 17 and shut down work sites across the province.

The government says it’s difficult to put a dollar figure on the strike’s cost.

Labour Minister Agnes Maltais dismissed speculation that the strike is costing $1 billion per week as “simplistic.”

The figure was floated by the opposition Coalition party on Monday.

Maltais says the construction sector is worth about $50 billion annually and that sum can’t just be divided by 52 weeks to estimate losses.

She said projects haven’t been cancelled, just delayed.

“Many big projects have been delayed for a week,” she said, pointing out that road construction crews are about to return to work.

Premier Pauline Marois said Monday she is prepared to give bargaining more time.

She has maintained a negotiated settlement is preferable to a legislated return to work.

The premier named a special mediator on Monday to help resolve the first construction strike in the province since the 1980s.