The newly expanded OE Banquet Hall at 2245 Speers Road in Oakville provided an impressive backdrop to the IUOE Local 793 special executive board meeting on September 21. “Wow, isn’t this outstanding,” president Joe Redshaw remarked, as he opened the meeting. “You guys used to be crammed in like sardines and now I can barely […]
The newly expanded OE Banquet Hall at 2245 Speers Road in Oakville provided an impressive backdrop to the IUOE Local 793 special executive board meeting on September 21.
“Wow, isn’t this outstanding,” president Joe Redshaw remarked, as he opened the meeting.
“You guys used to be crammed in like sardines and now I can barely see everyone in the back of the room. A far cry from where we’ve been in the past.”
The more than 140 attendees included area supervisors, business representatives, staff, delegates, officers, honourary lifetime members, and one self-proclaimed ‘retired legend’ in the form of guest delegate Ron Hillis. Brother Hillis’ perfectly timed comment during introductions received a hearty laugh.
Business manager Mike Gallagher began his report by recognizing the honourary lifetime members in attendance; George Bennett, Ken Boyle, Bob Giles, Bob McQueen, Michael Quinn, Claude Roberge, Pat Scott, Mike Chenier and Bruce Knight.
“Every one of them has been important to the Local in terms of building us up to the point where we are now,” business manager Gallagher said.
He also took time to acknowledge recently deceased member and storyteller, Wilf Dupuis.
Brother Wilf was a former chair of Local 793’s Toronto meetings and an active member in many of the Union’s committees. A 65-year member, Brother Wilf was made honourary lifetime member in 2004 and received his 50-year award later that same year. He passed away on May 4, 2019.
“I will miss his points of order. He set us straight when we needed to be set straight, in a nice way,” business manager Gallagher said.
Attention was turned to the 100th anniversary and all the activities held across the province in 2019.
Business manager Gallagher said that getting around to almost all the picnics across the province reminded him of how proud members are to be part of Local 793.
“At the beginning, I thought it would be a burden and so much work to travel to different parts of the province every weekend,” he said. “But, that’s not the experience I had. I loved it!
“What we do is so important,” he continued. “I have always known that but going to these picnics and seeing all the members and the young kids drove it home.
“It’s been great year for us,” he said.
The transition to self-administration under OEBAC was the next topic addressed and he explained that things are going well.
“The move to self-administration will be one of the most important things we’ve ever done,” he said. “It’s important for us to look after our membership.”
He explained that the tools OEBAC provides will be geared toward convenience and the fact that “there will be nobody faster than us” when it comes to claims submission and payment.
“This new benefit administration service is leading edge and the future of benefits administration.”
Business manager Gallagher highlighted a very successful year with the latest round of collective bargaining and pointed out that operating engineers received the highest settlement of all trades across the province.
“We had the highest settlement for our members over and above inflation, with no concessions what-so-ever and I’m proud of that. We didn’t give anything up.”
He added “I believe our skill-set is at the top, not in the middle or the bottom of the pyramid. Without us, nothing happens.”
From there, business manager Gallagher moved on to what he called everyone’s most hated topic – politics. He spoke with passion and conviction, asking members and staff to be educated about the current political climate.
“I believe in facts,” he stated. “We need to make informed choices.”
Gallagher warned of malicious influencers, an abundance of “garbage” and a need to be vigilant when it comes to evaluating political choices.
“Consider the source of information that you are getting. Be careful you are not being manipulated.”
Even with recent troubles, the Liberal Party have been friends to labour and business manager Gallagher encouraged all to be aware of how other parties lean with respect to Unions. He borrowed a line from director of Toronto area Dave Turple and explained, “Even turkeys wouldn’t vote for Thanksgiving.”
Business manager Gallagher remarked with pride that the OE Banquet Hall was complete, and the project came in under budget.
“We budgeted the project at $15 million and to date, the cost incurred is $14.2 million.”
He also pointed to the establishment of the OEBAC offices in the 15,000 square foot building next door to head office.
He closed his report with a glimpse of plans for future expansion, including a student residency, but assured that leadership is always careful to watch the economy ahead of any moves.
OEBAC CEO Sylvie Charest began her presentation showing a video that outlined the OEBAC story. The piece showcased Charest and business manager Gallagher, as they explained the reasons for establishing OEBAC and improvements that the members will see to their claim submission and payment process.
Charest spoke on the first transition wave to OEBAC that began September 1. The test group consisted of head office and area office staffers and she discussed preparations for the “main event” on November 1, when the remainder of Union membership will transition.
Using the large screens in the hall, Charest walked members and staff through the convenient features of the OEBAC Mobile App.
“Now, you will have all of your claims information, and so much more, at your fingertips with these new, cool tools,” she said.
Charest admitted that like all major endeavours, there are bumps in the road.
“We’re optimistic! We’re doing the right things and we’re adjusting to make this work,” she stated. “Is it perfect? No, but we are working hard to adjust as we go.”
She then encouraged members and staff who had already transitioned to OEBAC to relate their experiences to her team so they can continue improving the user experience for all future members.
President Redshaw echoed those comments after he thanked CEO Charest, encouraging the audience to report any hiccups by calling OEBAC.
Provincial Pipeline and EPSCA business representative Mike Scott gave his Energy Sector Report and outlined that work was steady across the province. He gave an update on the numerous projects in both portfolios.
Organizing manager Kyle Schutte discussed the dedication of the organizing team in his report. He began by commending the business reps and stewards that went to Crosby, Texas for the two-day Canadian Political Workshop and the job they did representing Local 793.
He also related the number “573” and explained that it was the amount of days in the last year that organizers have spent up north trying to get cards signed. Time away from their families and he commended them for that.
“That’s a heck of a commitment and a lot of time away from their families, so thank you.”
Schutte then gave an update on a long list of accomplishments that spoke to his team’s dedication.
“The organizing department will continue to set lofty goals. More important than the goal itself is putting the proper plan in place,” he said. “Sometimes that plan can be easy and sometimes you are going to face adversity. The organizers have strong personalities and we will have no problem facing adversity head on.”
Brian Alexander gave a report on the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) and treated the room to laughter, showing a clip from television show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” explaining that while infrastructure was not sexy, it is important.
Alexander explained the RCCAO, giving a look at the inner workings of the not-for-profit organization. The RCCAO’s mission is to provide solutions to infrastructure related issues.
Labour Relations manager Melissa Atkins-Mahaney followed, putting the spotlight on the business and area office staff.
“I would like to commend the business reps, all the area offices and the labour relations department who work incredibly hard to try and ensure we don’t have to litigate everything,” Atkins-Mahaney said. “We do an exceptionally good job at getting great results for our members quickly without having to go to the Labour Board.”
Atkins-Mahaney highlighted that 16 new certificates have been received, representing 1,100 new members to the union. As she pointed out, “it’s a remarkable number.”
She also discussed ratifying the Provincial Collective Agreement and its $4.25 increase over three years wage package, increases for travel, room and board, living out, meal, commuting and kilometre allowances.
“Once again, I think we have done an amazing job on behalf of the members and we continue to push forward,” said concluded.
Acting executive director of OETIO Joe Dowdall presented his Training Report and related that both the Oakville and Morrisburg were very busy.
“Last year at this time, January to September 2018, we had 13,872 training days. This year, from January to September 2019, we are up to 14,527. That’s an increase of 655 training days – or 4.75 per cent,” explained Dowdall.
Dowdall also spoke to the 3,880 certificates handed out through E-Learning and focused on the importance of being able to take classes from home for members.
He also had a visual presentation that showed some new training initiatives, including 3D technology, and gave a glimpse at the new OETIO website currently under construction. It is 80 per cent complete and will be online soon.
Dowdall pointed out that OETIO received more than $5.8 million in Federal and Provincial funding in 2018 and broke down where the money was used – to buy equipment for the Morrisburg and Oakville campus’.
“That is a lot of money that members don’t have to pay through dues,” Dowdall pointed out.
He closed with an update on Baffinland training and some new programs available to members, including Light Vehicle FX, Bus Driver Training and Loading “B” Trains.
In closing, Local 793 area delegates gave updates on their areas across Ontario. Those who spoke were Steve Bianco (Hamilton), Rob Bowden (Cambridge), Ian Copps (Sault Ste. Marie), Torie Coqu (Oshawa), Craig Cryderman (Sudbury), Ryan Dagnall (Toronto), Brian Douglas (Belleville), Blair Doyle (St. Catharines), Jim Fleckie (Sarnia), Ted Levesque (Timmins), Todd Madigan (Thunder Bay), Steve Martin (Ottawa), Logan McFarlane (Windsor), Jonathan McMaster (London), Connor Reilly (Toronto) and Mike Reynolds (Barrie).