Local 793’s annual dinner dance was held at the OE Banquet Hall and Conference Centre at head office in Oakville on Dec. 2.
About 500 people, many of them long-service members, attended the event.
Speakers included business manager Mike Gallagher, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton and Dr. Gail Darling of Toronto General Hospital.
In his remarks, business manager Gallagher talked about the importance of the union’s long-time members and the contributions they have made over the years.
“Our members have a terrific reputation for the work that they do and we certainly enjoy, at this time of the holiday season, to be able to come out here and recognize all of our long-service members.”
Earlier in the day, the union held its annual long-service awards ceremony to honour members who’ve been in the union for 60, 55, 50, 40 and 30 years.
Gallagher noted that he read a letter at the ceremony from 40-year member Robert McKay who was unable to be there due to ill health. His daughter accepted the award on his behalf.
“We really should, at this time of year, remember people, including within our own families, that are not feeling well or have recently suffered a loss in their family,” he said.
“Certainly our hearts go out to everybody that’s in that situation, including members across the province that couldn’t be here tonight.”
Gallagher also talked about Bill 148, known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which was brought in by Labour Minister Flynn and the Liberal government, which raises the minimum wage to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018 and to $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2019.
He said some employers are not happy with raising the minimum wage but it’s the right thing to do for lower-earning workers.
Some of the workers who will benefit are the sons and daughters of Local 793 members who are earning minimum wage and trying to get a start in life, he noted.
“It’s about time that the minimum wage was raised and I give credit to the government for doing that.”
The minimum wage in Ontario has been subject to periods of freezes and ad hoc increases over the last two decades. Presently, the minimum wage is $11.40 an hour.
In his remarks, Gallagher gave credit to the provincial Liberals and, in particular, Labour Minister Flynn, who is MPP for Oakville, for the work he’s doing on behalf of Ontario’s workers.
“Kevin has done a terrific job as the minister of labour,” he said. “I know him personally to be a very, very passionate person who absolutely cares.”
Gallagher said Flynn listens to the concerns of unions and he understands the building trades because his father was a tradesman and union member.
He said that Flynn led the charge on mandatory training for rotary drill rig operators after the death of Local 793 apprentice Kyle Knox at a subway construction site at York University in Toronto on Oct. 11, 2011, and made sure legislation was passed to correct the situation.
“Kevin Flynn pushed it through and did the right thing and made sure that we can prevent an operator error accident from ever happening again with rotary drill equipment by requiring the operator to have a crane licence before they operate a rotary drill.”
Flynn repaid the comment, noting in his remarks that when he needs to discuss an issue regarding the construction industry he goes to Gallagher.
“You’re so lucky to have Mike as your business manager in this organization,” he said. “Your organization is held in such high esteem by the Province of Ontario and I think you’re an example to the rest of the province as to how an organization should conduct itself.”
He said Gallagher has provided advice on the College of Trades, apprenticeships, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and more.
“When I look at the executive and the other people that assist Mike on a daily basis, I know that, as the minister of labour, I’m getting some of the best advice that I can possibly get and that only means good things for business in Ontario and it means good things for the working people of Ontario as well.”
Oakville Mayor Rob Burton noted in his remarks that a number of projects have been built or are about to get started in Oakville, and that the town has an exemplary safety record.
At the dinner dance, business manager Gallagher and Local 793 president Joe Redshaw presented a cheque for $131,485 to Dr. Darling, director of thoracic surgery clinical research at Toronto General Hospital, for the esophageal cancer program at University Health Network in Toronto.
The funds were raised at the sixth annual Gary O’Neill Memorial Golf Tournament held this past summer in Milton. So far, the tournament has raised $612,912 for research.
In her remarks, Dr. Darling said researchers are working on a breath test analyzer that will detect signs of esophageal cancer.
“You’ve probably heard about that in the press and it’s actually coming,” she said. “We’re hoping that we’ll be able to do a breathalyzer test to see if they are at a risk for the cancer.”