Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher addressed a number of topics during remarks at a fundraiser for Labour Minister Kevin Flynn in the union banquet hall March 3.
He told several hundred in attendance that he appreciates that the government will be investing in infrastructure, but he wants to make sure that building trade unions get the work.
He noted that having unions do the work will ensure the province gets more for its money.
“These contractors invest in pension and benefit and training funds and non-union contractors do not do that,” he said.
Gallagher noted that a study funded by the Ontario Construction Secretariat shows there is a big advantage to using unionized labour on projects.
Indeed, the study found that unionized construction firms in Ontario are safer than non-union firms.
The study, which examined Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claims data between 2006 and 2012 from more than 40,000 construction firms across Ontario, shows that unionized workers reported 23 per cent fewer injuries requiring time off work than non-union workers.
It was the first peer-reviewed Canadian study to examine the occupational health and safety benefits of unions in Ontario’s industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) construction sector.
In light of the study, Gallagher said, the government should ensure unions get the infrastructure work.
“It would be the right thing to do for the government.”
Gallagher also spoke about the importance of the Energy East pipeline project, part of which would run through northern Ontario.
“It’s very important that all of the public in Ontario gets behind the pipeline,” he said, as the amount of jobs involved is substantial and very important to the construction trades.
He said pipelines are proven to be the most environmentally friendly way to move oil from one end of the country to the other.
Presently, he noted, Canada imports 800,000 barrels of oil per day from countries like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and the U.S.
On the issue of the College of Trades, Gallagher also told the fundraiser that in reviewing recommendations made by Tony Dean “he should not throw out the baby with the bathwater.”
He should not lose site of the original purpose of self-regulation of the trades and allow applications to be bogged down by frivolous jurisdiction claims and hearings at the Ontario Labour Relations Board, he said.
Meanwhile, Gallagher said, the Operating Engineers appreciate the recent announcement of new drill rig regulations that was made last December by Labour Minister Flynn at a construction site in downtown Toronto, as it will ensure construction sites are safer.
Operators will now be required to have a mobile crane hoisting licence and 40 hours of specific training approved by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, and six months experience on the ground working as a front-end person to operate a foundation and piling rotary drill rig in Ontario.
The changes were made in response to an accident Oct. 11, 2011 that killed Kyle James Knox, a 24-year-old Local 793 crane apprentice. He was killed when a drill rig collapsed onto a backhoe he was operating at a construction site at York University. The operator of the drill rig was not licensed in Ontario.
Gallagher said the new regulations will ensure that there is not another tragic accident in Ontario.
Labour Minister Flynn said in remarks that the industry and Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities came to the conclusion that the rules needed to be changed.
He noted the new requirements come into effect July 1.
Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca said in remarks that for too long governments of all political stripes have under-invested in Ontario’s infrastructure and the government is now playing catch-up.
He noted that the Liberals intend to invest $160 billion over 12 years in infrastructure to build Ontario up, and that includes $16 billion over a decade in the GTA and Hamilton areas, specifically on public transit.
He said the investment will create 110,000 jobs across the province each and every year.
“That’s 110,000 families that are affected.”
At the event, attendees also observed a moment of silence for Ray Goodfellow, a management trustee on the union’s training and life and health benefits trust funds who passed away Feb. 21 at the age of 45.
Gallagher said that Goodfellow was a “fixture in the crane rental industry” and, thanks to his efforts, during the last round of bargaining for the Provincial Collective Agreement, it was settled in three days.