Local 793 is flourishing on a number of fronts, business manager Mike Gallagher said at a general membership meeting of the union at head office in Oakville on March 25.

“We’re just going to continue on an upward trajectory,” he said in remarks to more than 150 members at the meeting.

Gallagher said the union is on the right track, as membership numbers continue to rise.

“There’s a lot of good news about the union,” he said, “and we’re now just shy of 15,000 members.”

He noted that members’ equity is at $104 million – 10.7 per cent higher than the previous year – and union assets are $111 million – 10 per cent higher than the previous year.

The out-of-work list for Toronto area was at 569 members at March 14, down from more than 800 a year earlier, he said

Meanwhile, the pension plan is now at $2.7 billion – up $200 million from a year earlier, he said, and the plan earned eight per cent in 2017.

The plan was 99.9 per cent funded on a going-concern basis as of the end of 2017, he said.

On the organizing front, Gallagher said more companies are being unionized, with 117 voluntary recognition agreements being signed in 2017 and up to March 14, 2018. In the same time period, the union received 18 certificates from the Labour Board.

Gallagher said the union is growing at a much more rapid rate through organizing than any other construction union.

“The numbers are growing at a faster rate than all our competitors,” he said. “I feel that we’re doing good.”

Gallagher noted the local is preparing to file a certification at the Labour Relations Board on Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. at the Mary River site on Baffin Island in Nunavut.

Organizers have spent more than a year organizing Baffinland and the company has more than 800 workers.

Gallagher said he met earlier with Baffinland’s vice president of human resources and presented the concept of voluntary recognition, but the union will be making an application.

He said workers at the company seem to support the union and feel it can help them improve camp conditions.

“Lets just keep our fingers crossed and hope it turns out,” Gallagher said.

While trying to organize the company, he noted that Inuit workers from Baffinland have been training at the OETIO in Morrisburg, which has brought revenue into the union.

He said the OETIO has already received $416,000 in tuition plus $146,348 in room and board and ancillary expenses as a result of the workers being trained at the OETIO.

Another 12 operators from the company are scheduled to be trained at the OETIO in June, so the total tuition as a result of training employees from Baffinland is expected to be $596,000 plus $210,078 in room and board and ancillary expenses, he said.

Gallagher noted he recently hired four new organizers, bringing the number to 11, and he encouraged members to work with the union’s organizers, as it’s not an easy job.

Gallagher told the meeting that Local 793 will soon be embarking on an expansion of the banquet hall at head office.

The union is working with Michael Spaziani Architect.

Gallagher said the present building will be doubled in size and is being expanded to the east, a hallway is being added to the north, and more office space will also be added.

“We will likely be finished by August of next year in time to do our dinner dance,” he said.

Gallagher said the union also plans to build a 40-to-60-room student residence on 6.25 acres of property at 2201 Speers Rd., adjacent to head office, that it bought in summer 2017.

The building, he said, will enable apprentices to be able to stay in a safe place while training at the OETIO.

Gallagher said the union is also moving to self-administer its pension and life and health benefits plans and staff will be housed in a building on the newly-purchased property.

Eventually, he said, a new building will be built on the property for staff and some of the space will be rented out, bringing revenue into the local.

Gallagher said when members come to the main hall to take care of union business they’ll be able to do everything in one location.

Meanwhile, he noted, the union is planning for the future.

A committee has been meeting for the past year, planning activities for the 100th anniversary of the local in 2019, he said, and picnics and events are planned for many districts.

The union will also be selling commemorative items on its website and plans to get permission to fly flags on tower cranes at worksites.

“It’s a privilege for us to be alive when this great local reaches 100 years,” he said.

Gallagher spoke on a number of other subjects.

He said it was brought to his attention that companies were bringing in cranes that had been de-rated to avoid hiring apprentices and grievances have been filed with contractors.

He said companies were bringing in 110-ton cranes as 90-ton cranes.

“We filed 14 grievances against all of the heavy hitters in the crane rental sectors and I feel very confident that we’re going to win them,” he said.

Since filing the grievances, Gallagher said a couple of contractors have reached out to Local 793 to settle the issue.

Gallagher also congratulated the 21 delegates who were elected to attend the IUOE general convention in Hollywood, Florida in May.

He said it is the largest number of delegates ever being sent to the convention by Local 793.

He thanked the election committee for running a successful election for the IUOE general convention. The members were Mike Chenier, Vince Prout and Dan Davey.

At the meeting, OETIO executive director Harold McBride provided a report on apprenticeship training, new training initiatives, short-course and e-learning training, simulation and the union’s Aboriginal engagement plan.

He noted the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) is providing the OETIO with $2.3 million for training of mobile and tower crane, concrete pump and heavy equipment operators in 2018.

This will enable the OETIO to train 104 mobile and tower crane and concrete pump apprentices and 126 heavy equipment apprentices in 2018, he said.

The MAESD also awarded the OETIO $457,336 in 2018 to train 36 pre-apprentices.

As part of its Aboriginal engagement plan, the OETIO plans to recruit 50 new Aboriginal apprentices in 2018.

McBride said an RFP is going out to purchase a 40-to-60-ton all-terrain crane for the Oakville campus and a second RFP is going out to purchase a 0-8-ton carry-deck crane for Morrisburg. A new 15-ton Elliott boom truck recently arrived at the Oakville campus.

McBride noted that an AZ/DZ driver-training program has been added at the OETIO. Trainees in the course take four weeks of training. So far, six courses have been completed.

A report presented by McBride showed that from the beginning of the year to March 25 1,387 short-courses have been completed by members at the OETIO.

Meanwhile, he noted, six new VxAdvantage simulators and two Vxtraining simulators are up and running at the OETIO and two existing VxMaster simulators have been retrofitted.