Thank you for the opportunity to speak again on Parliament Hill about an issue that is near and dear to the hearts of carpenters across Ontario. We are a union that has 16 local unions across the province. We are the largest single source of apprenticeship in the trades in Ontario.
Our situation currently in Ontario and particularly in the GTA is approaching crisis levels. We are short of skilled tradespeople in virtually every facet of the carpentry trade in Toronto where our members work. In the GTA, or what I would think of as the GTA proper, we have three local unions: local 27, which is general carpentry; local 675, which is drywall and interior systems workers—these kinds of ceilings, for example; and local 1030, which does primarily residential work.
Our members work in the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors on large infrastructure projects, buildings, universities and subway stations, and in the residential sector, significantly in the GTA.
We cannot fill the jobs right now. We provided the speaking notes. We rely heavily on our friends from BuildForce in terms of their economic analysis. What we're here to tell you is that those are not just statistics. Those are the crises that we face everyday when contractors phone us and say, “I have a project and I need 10 carpenters on Monday morning”, and we don't have them.
This is slowing down Toronto and all of the industries that make up Toronto. Toronto has grown significantly over the last 10 to 20 years. Construction has not kept up. Infrastructure projects are stacked one upon the other around the GTA. I urge you to look at some of the slides from BuildForce and look at the demands that there are.
On the flip side is the demographic crisis that we're facing in terms of the aging of the workforce generally and the aging of the skilled trades workforce in particular. Our membership is aging. Hopefully, it won't happen, but fully 40% of our members could be eligible to retire by 2030. We need new workers coming into our trade. We have put in our speaking notes materials all of the efforts that we, together with our employers, are making to recruit into our industry young Canadians and people who haven't previously considered work in the trades, and the efforts that we've gone to with regard to women, for example, to try to bring them into the trades. We still need help from immigration. We're urging you to consider a few different unique features of the construction industry when looking at a micro-localized solution for the GTA.
Employment in the construction industry with any particular employer is always, by its very nature, transient. Jobs start and jobs end. The model that we have within our immigration system of an employer reaching out to bring a foreign worker to Canada does not work for our industry. Our employers can't forecast their specific labour needs with enough certainty because they go contract to contract. Our industry, however, knows what we need. We can't tell you which contractor is going to get the drywall on a new hospital, so we can't tell you that that drywall contractor will need 50 board men. We can tell you, though, that one drywall contractor is going to get that work and that we will need 50 board people to put up the drywall.
What we are urging is that, in the GTA in the construction industry, consideration be be given to an industry-wide approach through the unions that are involved. It's one of the most heavily unionized sectors in the country.
The unions are a force and a player, and are willing to play a role with the employer associations to allow for broader industry-based immigration, and broader industry-based temporary foreign workers to come in, so they can be shared amongst the employers who need them. If it is done properly, through the unions and the associations, we feel we can negate any of the potential impacts of foreign workers being exploited.
My last point, very quickly, and this is what I wish to stress—allow the temporary foreign worker to transition to some sort of permanent residency status. We are urging you—pleading with you—to consider something for our industry and our tradesmen and women who come here. We have hard-working, decent people who come here as temporary foreign workers for two years and go to work every day. When I left this morning, going through Mr. Vaughan's constituency to the airport, there were construction workers out at 5:30 in the morning, to start work on those condos at 7:00 a.m. They work every day for two years and at the end of those two years, they have no hope of becoming permanent residents in this country, because we say as a nation that if you can't read or write English to an acceptable level, we don't want you.
We have brought with us two people who work at the sharp end of the process. Mr. Yorke and I have the easy part. Vlada Hershtynovich and Michael Randazzo actually do the intakes to try to navigate our members through the complex system that is immigration in Toronto. They have the unenviable task of telling hard-working carpenters, “You're good enough to have built those subway stations in Toronto for two years, but Canada doesn't want to keep you as a permanent resident because you can't meet the language requirements.”
We are urging you to recognize that for skilled tradespersons, if they come here and demonstrate that they can work at good jobs, at family-supporting wages—in some cases, $100,000 a year, because of the hours available in construction.... My friends from the Home Builders' will tell you what they pay their labour. These are good jobs. These are employers who are crying out to keep the workers, but we can't find ways to keep them here now because of—I wouldn't say anachronistic measures, but measures that don't make sense for construction workers. I don't want to sound.... Reading and writing are wonderful; they changed my world, but somebody has to build the library in which those books are kept. Somebody has to build these rooms and these buildings. Those people are just as valuable to the future of this country as anybody else.
I think that's our seven minutes.