View on the Provincial Budget

The provincial budget tabled April 27 by Finance Minister Charles Sousa promises to balance the books while keeping tax rates for individual and corporations unchanged. It is the first balanced budget in the decade since the global recession of 2008. Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher says he’s pleased with some items in the budget […]

The provincial budget tabled April 27 by Finance Minister Charles Sousa promises to balance the books while keeping tax rates for individual and corporations unchanged.

It is the first balanced budget in the decade since the global recession of 2008.

Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher says he’s pleased with some items in the budget but is disappointed with others.

He likes the fact it is a balanced budget, and that the Kathleen Wynne government has delivered on a commitment originally set by her predecessor.

The governing Liberals have fulfilled their pledge to return to black ink by 2017-18. The budget forecasts a deficit of $1.5 billion for 2016-17 before forecasting three straight years of balanced books beginning in 2017-18, all due to a booming economy that’s bringing higher than expected revenue into government coffers.

Gallagher also likes some of the measures, such as the launch of the new OHIP Children and Youth Pharmacare drug coverage proposal, and more money for hospitals and social housing.

The OHIP Children and Youth Pharmacare plan would provide universal drug coverage for all children and youth aged 24 and under, effective Jan. 1, 2018. It will cover the cost of all medicines covered by the Ontario Drug Benefit Program with no deductible or co-payment. Four million children up to age 24 will be covered for prescription drugs.

The government also announced it would be increasing operating funding for all Ontario public hospitals with an additional $518 million or three-per-cent increase in the sector.

Five major hospital projects have also been approved:

  • A redevelopment project will take place at Hamilton Health Sciences that will see aging infrastructure updated to meet current hospital standards.
  • A new hospital is to be built in support of service transformation in the Niagara Region.
  • A new hospital is to be built in support of service transformation in the Windsor region.
  • Investments will also be made in the Mississauga Hospital and Queensway Health Centre to add spaces and renovate existing space.
  • Ontario has committed to the provincial share of project costs for a new hospital to serve the population along the James Bay coast.

Meanwhile, the 2017 budget committed an additional $30 billion in infrastructure investment over the next 11 years. This brings the government’s total infrastructure investment between 2014-15 to 2026-27 to $190 billion, up from $160 billion.

On the social housing front, the province will allocate some of its unused lands, worth between $75 and $100 million, for the development of 2,000 new housing units in Toronto.

However, Gallagher is disappointed there was no money for the Ring of Fire or announcements about funding for more renewable energy projects.

He says he would like to see the province commit to funding for infrastructure to support developments in the Ring of Fire area, but there has been no follow-through on that.

He’s also disappointed the government did not commit to any funding on the energy file.

However, he noted he is awaiting release of the province’s Long Term Energy Plan and hopes the government can be convinced to go to 50 per cent generation of electricity by renewables.

On the economic front, the government forecasts that growth will slow over the next few years, but non-residential construction will increase.

Ontario’s gross domestic product is expected to decrease to 1.7 per cent in 2020 from 2.7 per cent in 2016.

However, non-residential construction is expected to increase by 3.5 per cent in 2018, followed by an even greater increase of 5.3 per cent in 2019.

Day of Mourning Ceremony at Head Office

Labour unions, employers and various levels of government must work harder to make sure that safety is the top priority on construction sites and in workplaces across Ontario. That was one of the messages conveyed by Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher at a ceremony at the union’s head office April 28 to mark Canada’s […]

Labour unions, employers and various levels of government must work harder to make sure that safety is the top priority on construction sites and in workplaces across Ontario.

That was one of the messages conveyed by Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher at a ceremony at the union’s head office April 28 to mark Canada’s National Day of Mourning.

“We all have to redouble our efforts and make sure that we don’t have to add any more names to the monument behind us,” he said referring to the structure erected at head office with names of members who’ve died in jobsite accidents or due to occupational illness.

“There is no shortcut that should ever be taken that puts at risk a single worker. We don’t want to add any more names here or to any of the rolls in the province of Ontario.”

About 80 people attended the morning, hour-long ceremony, including some family members of Local 793 operators whose names are etched on the monument. During the event, the names of operators on the monument were read out, followed by a minute’s silence.

One new name was engraved on the monument this year – that of Claude Joly, a crane operator and 45-year member who died from mesothelioma on Dec. 15, 2016 at the age of 85. There are now 40 names engraved on the monument.

Gallagher said safety is a priority for the union and Local 793 is prepared to spend as much as it takes to ensure its new recruits are properly trained and receive appropriate heath and safety instruction because a traumatic injury can take a terrible toll on a worker’s family.

“Us as heavy equipment operators know how important training is,” he said. “We invest a lot of our local members’ money into the most advanced training that’s available and we know that prevention is so important.

“If we can eliminate operator error that eliminates the vast majority of accidents out in the field.”

Gallagher noted that when training apprentices, the union advises them to always put safety first.

We want them to bring professionalism to everything that they do, and to do it with an eye to safety and doing it the very best possible way they can because the responsibility is not just to themselves and their own family, but also to the workers that they work with and the general public.”

Gallagher said it’s disconcerting that a national survey showed more than 40 per cent of employers do not share their workplace health and safety policies with new workers when they start on a job. The survey was conducted for Toronto law firm Fasken Martineau.

The statistics, he said, shows there’s more to be done on the employer’s side.

“We have to put into practice what is in our policies,” he said, “and we have to make sure of that, especially with young people.”

Gallagher told the ceremony that it’s also vital that more of the Operating Engineer trades become compulsory, rather than voluntary.

“We need more of the work out there that is dangerous to the public, and dangerous to the workers on the jobsites, to become what we call restricted trades.”

He said Local 793 is seeking compulsory status for concrete pump operators but other heavy equipment trades should also become restricted trades.

“Somebody working on an excavator, for example, and working on a jobsite should be well-trained and know what they’re doing.”

Local 793 president Joe Redshaw emceed the ceremony and told those attending that a survey done for the Ontario Construction Secretariat showed that the unionized construction industry is 23 per cent safer than the non-union sector.

The study examined worker compensation data from the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board for close to 45,000 construction firms and 1.5 million construction workers, reporting for the period from 2006 to 2012.

“So what we’ve been preaching for years is true,” said Redshaw.

Researchers, he said, are now digging deeper to find out why the unionized sector is safer.

“We on the inside have our own opinion,” Redshaw said. “It’s our commitment to training, the health and safety atmosphere in the unionized sector, and the apprenticeship programs that we all invest heavily into to train our members on how to operate the equipment.

“The secondary factor is that workers know they have the right to refuse to work under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In the non-union sector they are a little bit afraid to go out for fear of their jobs, whereas a union worker knows if he goes out and complains about issues on the project he has the backing of his union.”

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton and Oakville North-Burlington MP Pam Damoff also spoke at the ceremony.

Burton said he and leaders of surrounding communities have made safety a high priority and he is proud that millions of hours have been worked at Oakville Hydro without serious incident.

Damoff, meanwhile, said it’s important for workers to be able to go to work and return home safely to their families.

“Let’s not just today, but every day, make a commitment to having a safe workplace and ensuring everyone is educated on their rights and responsibilities.”

 

Campaign Launched by Unions Over BC Pipeline

A coalition has been formed and an online campaign has been launched to tell Kinder Morgan to keep its promise to British Columbians and build the Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline with unionized labour. Business manager Mike Gallagher is encouraging Local 793 members to visit the web page set up by the B.C. Coalition for Safety […]

A coalition has been formed and an online campaign has been launched to tell Kinder Morgan to keep its promise to British Columbians and build the Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline with unionized labour.

Business manager Mike Gallagher is encouraging Local 793 members to visit the web page set up by the B.C. Coalition for Safety Before Profits at www.safetybeforeprofits.ca and sign up to receive information on the issue.

“This is a very important issue for our Brother and Sisters in British Columbia, and those who work in the pipeline industry,” said Gallagher. “Pipelines built by experienced Canadian union workers will be safer than those built using unqualified or temporary foreign labour.”

At the website, you will find a link to a Facebook site, where stories will be showcased, and where you can like and share with friends, relatives and neighbours. The Coalition plans to add new stories as the campaign unfolds over time to build momentum. The Facebook site is at https://www.facebook.com/SafetyBeforeProfits/.

The Coalition was formed in response to a growing community of British Columbians who are concerned about Kinder Morgan’s level of commitment to safety.

Founding coalition members include the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Labourer’s International Union of North America, United Association Canada (Canadian Piping Trades), and Teamsters Canada.

Collectively, members of these unions have safely built the majority of pipelines in Canada.

However, in spite of efforts by the trades over many months to meet with Kinder Morgan, they have still not secured a commitment from the company to hire union trades for the pipeline. The trades are seeking a Project Labour Agreement for the pipeline project.

The question then is: Why would Kinder Morgan rely on anyone other than the most experienced workers to build its Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline?

The Coalition wants Kinder Morgan to hire the same union workers that built the original pipeline without incident.

It also wants people to join B.C.’s skilled, unionized workers in telling Kinder Morgan to keep its promise to B.C. and put safety before profits.

The campaign is built around the following key positions:

  • Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion project is a significant opportunity for British Columbians.
  • For B.C., that means ensuring all of the government’s five conditions are met and that B.C. gets a fair share of the economic benefits of the project.
  • For B.C.’s skilled trades workers and workforce of the future, that means not getting undercut by temporary foreign workers so Kinder Morgan can cut costs.
  • For Kinder Morgan, that means meeting B.C.’s five conditions and keeping its promise to put safety before profits.
  • If Kinder Morgan is willing to cut costs with unqualified cheap labour, then it is definitely putting profits before safety.

The Coalition notes that to grow and support the workforce of tomorrow, pipeline unions have invested $85 million in rigorous training to ensure well-paying middle class jobs for B.C. and for Canada.

Local 793 Offices Closed on Easter Holiday

Please be advised that all Local 793 offices will be closed for the Easter holiday on Friday, April 14, 2017. Offices will be open on Monday, April 17, 2017.

Please be advised that all Local 793 offices will be closed for the Easter holiday on Friday, April 14, 2017.
Offices will be open on Monday, April 17, 2017.