Some Quebec construction workers to see overtime pay cut slightly

MONTREAL – Some Quebec construction workers are about to lose a perk — double time for their first hour of overtime.

A provincial arbitrator recently ruled the first hour would be paid at a rate of time-and-a-half, with subsequent hours to remain at double time.

Employers had been seeking a change that would have seen the first five hours of OT paid at time-and-a-half followed by double time, with certain exceptions.

Previous negotiations ended three years ago with an agreement in principle but without a deal being reached on the contentious overtime provision.

Arbitrator Francois Hamelin handed down a decision after numerous hearings that began in January 2015 and only ended this past June.

Double time for the first hour of OT is rare in Quebec.

A study cited in the decision suggested that only 0.2 per cent of collective agreements in the province include double time for all overtime worked.

That works out to four agreements out of the 2,029 analyzed in the study.

The Quebec Construction Association, which represents institutional, commercial and industrial sector contractors, estimates about 2.75 million hours of overtime are worked among the sectors.

With an average hourly salary of $42, overtime costs can rise quickly, said Jean-Philippe Cliche, an economist at the association.

Cliche said savings of $21 on the first hour might not be huge for some employers, but could be significant for others.

Those unions affected will take a few days before commenting on the decision.