Concrete truck drivers’ strike blocks construction in Vancouver

160 Rempel workers are on strike, but another 110 Ocean Concrete and 24 Allied Concrete workers are also not crossing picket lines

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A week-old strike by concrete truck drivers has brought residential and commercial projects in Metro Vancouver to a halt, leaving builders and customers concerned about the cost of delays.

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“My order has been delayed for two weeks. It’s been a nightmare,” said Marie-Claire Howard, president of Alliance Francaise Vancouver, a nonprofit that is building a new four-story, 28,700-square-foot cultural center on Cambie Street near 47th Avenue.

The current hiatus is exacerbating an already precarious situation for the project after years of towing to get city approvals and then months of bad weather, Howard said.

“All we want is for the job to be done. The project is already super late for other reasons, so this is even worse and we are at risk of bankruptcy. We haven’t had any figures or requests yet, but traders are saying that if this continues, they could ask for compensation and more money.”

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The strike by concrete truck drivers at Rempel Bros. Concrete operations began May 20, according to Jeff Sieg, director of corporate communications at Lehigh Hanson, Inc., which owns Rempel Bros. and is based in Irving, Texas.

Rempel Bros. was founded in 1967 by three brothers in Abbotsford and now operates a fleet of approximately 75 ready-mix concrete trucks.

A construction site stalled by the concrete workers' strike at the site of the new site of the French Cultural Center near Oakridge in Vancouver on June 7, 2022.
A construction site stalled by the concrete workers’ strike at the site of the new site of the French Cultural Center near Oakridge in Vancouver on June 7, 2022. Photo by NICK PROCAYLOPNG

It has a dozen locations in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley and has supplied concrete for major infrastructure and major construction projects such as the Golden Ears Bridge, Richmond Olympic Oval, as well as the new sorority building at the University of BC, plus major shopping malls.

A total of 160 Rempel workers are on strike, but an additional 110 Ocean Concrete and 24 Allied Concrete workers are also not crossing picket lines, said Barry Capozzi, commercial agent for Teamsters Local Union No. 213, one of two unions involved in talks. involved.

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He estimates that the three companies supply about 35 percent of the concrete supply in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Smaller concrete suppliers say their phones are ringing.

“It just creates a real supply chain for all developers and builders. There is not enough time in the day, not enough concrete trucks to ship everything. We try to ship as much as possible and it’s not even close to the demand,” said Rick Rodland, customer manager at Coquitlam Concrete, a smaller and independent concrete supplier.

Sieg said the company and the union have been unable to reach an agreement and will meet again on Wednesday. Capozzi said one of the main bottlenecks is working conditions.

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Meanwhile, a homebuilder says he’s not sure how to make plans.

“Smaller suppliers already have regular customers,” said Sean Ederer of Sea-Pat Construction in North Vancouver, which has been doing home projects for more than 30 years.

“Anyone like me who calls and wants 10 yards of concrete or something like that for a main building says, ‘We’ll book you, but it’s in a month.’ What do I tell my client?”

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