Four days have passed since the construction industry launched an unlimited general strike across Quebec. The last unlimited general strike in this industry goes back to 1986. The various industry stakeholders must quickly address issues a strike can cause, especially managing deadlines on construction sites.
Although it is difficult to estimate how long this strike will last, some delays to agreed deadlines and some substantial cost overruns could be experienced. Each strike day can represent a considerable loss and compromise the economic viability of projects.
Clients and contractors must immediately consider the following:
Delays and additional costs resulting from the strike
- Analyzing the delays and the additional costs that may arise from the strike and identifying who should be liable is essential.
Analyzing contractual provisions between clients and contractors, or between contractors and subcontractors, is essential. Several standardized industry contracts1 provide that a strike is a case of force majeure, an "excusable" delay for the contractor. Some contracts are silent on this topic (or subcontractors’ contracts are not consistent with contractors’ and clients’ contracts), meaning parties have to rely on the law and case law. The question will be to determine if the strike constitutes force majeure excusing the contractor from the delay caused by the strike and, if this is the case, if the contractor can claim additional costs such as measures to make up for lost time. Similarly, an owner experiencing delivery delays affecting third parties (late delivery of business premises to tenants, late delivery of condominiums, etc.) should determine his or her responsibility in this regard and give the necessary notices.
- Contractors should determine the impacts of delays on penalty clauses stipulated in contracts, if any.
Likewise, material and equipment suppliers, whose orders are suspended or moved due to the strike, should be informed of their rights and obligations, and give the necessary notices.
- In the case where delays were already attributable to contracting parties before the strike started, crystallizing these delays, for example, by giving notices to late contractors, should be considered.
To prevent possible conflicts, contractors should evaluate their duty towards their clients to give information concerning any additional delays that will be incurred for the delivery of a project due to the strike.
In addition to some obligations regarding labour relations (scope of work submitted to the strike, maintenance of the working conditions during the strike, possibility of workers working during the strike, etc.), contractors must be aware of their health and security obligations during the strike, especially the obligation to ensure security on site during the suspension of construction work.