Construction Union pros/cons

  • Last Updated:
  • Feb 28th, 2020 6:06 pm
Jan 6, 2013
46 posts
1 upvote

Construction Union pros/cons

Hi All,

Long story short I worked landscaping for a few years in my early 20’s, then switched to more general excavation/concrete/sewers type work. I’ve worked for a few different guys (all generally pretty good) but I’ve reached a point where I think I can make a leap.

I’ve been offered good jobs with a few non-union companies for low $30’s/hr, which is pretty standard. I currently make $30/hr but will be getting a raise and bonus in the spring.

I also have a friend that “makes way more than me” working in the union, but I see him bouncing around to different companies and he’s laid off for at least a couple months every winter.

My evaluation of the situation is as follows:

Non-union (current job)
Pros- awesome work environment, great guys to work with, decent equipment, decent pay, full time hours all year
Cons- older equipment, not much regular structured training, pay caps out at mid $30’s/h, no overtime, limited health benefits, no pension

Pros- top level pay, overtime, great benefits, newer equipment, training programs
Cons- pension strength is questionable, bouncing from company to company, growth is based on seniority not actual skill and production, higher likelihood of getting an a-hole boss.

For those of you that work in the union (or have actual knowledge of it), can you talk specifics with me? What are wages currently at? How much are deductions? What’s the work environment like?

Ultimately I want to do what’s best for me overall. I love my current boss, but if I can get $10/h more somewhere else I sorta have to do it. If I get more money from a union job but after all the deductions it’s only a couple dollars more, it’s not worth it.

Let me know what you think!

*note: I firmly believe union pensions are underfunded and doomed. I don’t believe the payoff will be what they say it’s going to be and I don’t attach much value to a pension. I already own a duplex which I plan to use as my pension.
3 replies
Deal Addict
Feb 16, 2013
1194 posts
I do union electrical.
If you can, apply for union labourer.
Liuna 506 and 143.
I work with 506 guys, since I do ICI -institutional, commercial and industrial.
143 is low rise and high rise, I think...

Concrete workers can be up your ally. It's hard work though.

If you have a choice, apply for bricklayer. The average age is 45-50 so those guys have real power in negotiating wages.

Union electrical makes about 45$ plus 10% vacation pay, 5$ RRSP and benefits and pension.
37.5 hours a week. Double time after or outside your regular hours.
Hours generally start at 630, but can also start at 6 or 7.
The best sites are four 9 hour shifts.
30 minute unpaid lunch and two 15 minute paid breaks.
Some sites skip second break so you can leave early-really helps when your working downtown and want to beat the afternoon rush.

Foreman rate is generally +5$ and a free hour paid.
It goes up from there.
Head foreman clear 130K easy.
Sky's the limit.
Jun 6, 2018
82 posts
Your friend's employment cycle is the reason why I gave up construction.
Hurry up! stay home!
That's a big no thanks!
Gotta ask. How much of the year are you or friend working?
With 1 month off a year equals 92 % of your pay rate.
Deal Addict
Feb 16, 2013
1194 posts
One more thing.
At least in electrical there is no such thing as seniority.
If a person is a slacker they end up just hanging around the hall all year.
The people that work hard and put out always seem to have work.