On behalf of the officers, executive board and staff of Local 793 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, I would like to wish all union members and families a Happy New Year.
Looking back, 2019 was a very successful year for our local. We continue to grow and now have more than 16,000 members, making us the largest Operating Engineers local in Canada.
Right out of the gate, we had the 100th anniversary celebrations to plan. Events included 10 picnics across the province, the Rodeo-Picnic in Morrisburg, the dinner-dance and its breathtaking fireworks display at the newly expanded OE Banquet Hall, and many more.
In March, we joined with other unions to celebrate the 32nd annual Toronto St. Patrick’s Day parade. I was honoured to be the Grand Marshal and march ahead of the parade alongside IUOE general president James T. Callahan. We had 500 members and their family attend, breaking a parade record for marchers in one group.
Local 793 also led the Labour Day and Oakville Santa Claus Parades in September and November, respectively.
In April, we signed an agreement with the large mining company Baffinland in Nunavut on Baffin Island. This welcomed upwards of 800 workers employed in various positions within the bargaining unit to join the union, including many ore haul truck drivers, heavy equipment operators and skilled tradespeople.
2019 was also a major bargaining year for many of our important collective agreements. We managed by slimmest of margins to avoid any major work stoppages and had some of the best financial settlements of any other trade.
On Provincial negotiations, we tackled the irritant of derating 90-tons and from a monetary perspective, Local 793 members came out on top in the negotiations. Only one trade – the Steeplejacks – obtained a higher settlement, and this number reflects a catching up by this trade as compared to the Operating Engineers.
Local 793 signed 97 voluntary recognition agreements in 2019, bringing in 1,122 new bargaining unit employees. We also received 17 certificates from the Ontario Labour Relations Board, representing another 283 workers.
We accomplished many improvements to our union in 2019, most notably the move to self-administration and the creation of the Operating Engineers Benefits Administration Corporation (OEBAC). The OEBAC staff are settled into the new office on the property adjacent to head office in Oakville and are running full steam ahead.
There were numerous improvements to our benefits plan in 2019, including an increase in the long-term disability flat monthly benefit, which went from $1,250 to $1,500. Vision care allotment also increased from $600 to $800 and is more frequently available, now every 12 months.
There was also a large increase in laser eye care coverage, going from $1,000 to $2,000 per lifetime. As well, psychotherapist and social worker were added to the existing psychologist benefit under the Plan.
From a performance standpoint, the pension plan started the year strong. Due to the plan’s good health, the Trustees were able to increase pension benefits. All benefits earned up until January 1, 2019, including pensions in pay, saw an increase of 2.5 per cent.
The pension plan continues to grow and now has assets of approximately $3 billion as of November 30, 2019. In surplus on an ongoing concern, the return is over 14 per cent year-to-date.
We opened the doors to the newly renovated and expanded OE Banquet & Conference Centre in October. Close to 50 per cent more space was added, as well as a full-service industrial kitchen for 1,000 people (dinner capacity), five additional office spaces, and a major upgrade of audio-visual and IT equipment.
The expansion will help Local 793 ensure that our growing number of members are recognized by being accommodated at our events and annual dinner dance. It will also give the local an opportunity to increase revenue from our social and corporate rentals.
Like all good organizations, however, we are not content to rest on our laurels and are looking to the future.
2020 will be an equally exciting year for us.
The mining sector will continue to be a focus for the union. We will work on various strategies to organize the sector, including some of the major gold mines that are in the area like Detour Gold in northeastern Ontario and the Ring of Fire in the James Bay Lowlands of northern Ontario.
2020 is also a union election year, and all executive positions will be up for election, re-election or acclamation. The union has a strong and dedicated leadership team in place, and each is looking forward to continuing to work on behalf of the members should the ballot results dictate such.
I would like to thank all members for their support over the last year and wish you all the best in the New Year. The officers and I intend to keep Local 793 growing so that we can continue to better the lives of our members and their families.
IUOE Local 793