Toronto is a giant construction site and generates employment and income for many workers in the Portuguese-speaking community.
By Marta Almeida | Translated by Loretta Murphy
A few years ago, there was a common joke among Toronto residents: Canada has only two seasons – winter and construction. That’s because many buildings are constructed in the warmer months. But today, even with freezing temperatures, a quick glance around the city proves that the “construction season” is as long as the winter. The construction industry moves billions of dollars a year, and there are so many ongoing projects that in 2013, Immigration Canada opened its doors to the hiring of three thousand workers. The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, even compared the current situation to the post-war period, when Canada turned to immigration to help advance it construction projects. It is expected that over the next eight years, 320 thousand professionals will be needed for this sector. Demand is growing for carpenters, electricians, and especially welders and heavy machinery operators.
Fight for rights
The construction industry sustains the livelihood of thousands of workers. In the LIUNA Local 183 alone, there are 40,000 members, 65% of whom belong to the Portuguese-speaking community. For Business Manager Jack Oliveira, the union’s priority today is the safety of this group: “I think it’s very important that these workers leave for work in the morning and arrive home in the evening in good health in order to continue providing the support that their families’ need.” Joining a union is a fundamental step for the rights of those working in construction to be respected. “We want what is best for our members. Not only do we defend their rights in employment contracts, but we also continue to create new benefits. In short, they are our bosses and we answer to them. I’ve always said that it is the members who hold the keys to this union, so we not only work hard for them, but we listen to them and try to implement many of the requests they make,” Oliveira concluded.
In the construction field, few workers have left their jobs and invested in the business itself. Brazilian Antonio Bravim left the city of Resplendor, located in the state of Minas Gerais, 27 years ago. He began working for a Canadian company, doing carpentry and finishing after renovations. He also worked for an insurance company, doing repairs and 20 years ago, he opened a restoration company. “The market has been hot for at least the last 10 years. I am working hard, I have a large client base and they always provide referrals,” says Bravim who believes that there is great potential in the market and is satisfied with the choice he made. “I am very pleased, I am comfortable and it’s what I know how to do.”