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 their families a very happy New Year.
Over the course of more than a century, we have proved time and again that by standing together this Local can face anything – and 2022 was no exception. From a pandemic to strikes, our members have shown exactly what they are made of.
The loosening of health restrictions early in the year meant we could hold an in-person General Membership meeting in March, the first in three years, while members were also able to take part in community events across the province, such as the St Patrick’s Day, Labour Day and Santa Claus parades.
After two years of working through a pandemic and with prices for gas, food and accommodation taking off, members working under the Provincial Formwork Collective Agreement and in various sectors under the Provincial Collective Agreement voted to strike for fairer wages and workers’ rights on May 1 when talks with the employers broke down.
More than 6,000 Local 793 members took to pickets across the province and held the line with remarkable discipline for three turbulent weeks. The action paid off when, on May 20, members in all areas ratified increased settlements of between 13.8% and 16.5% – one of the highest of any trade in the ICI sector. There were also big gains made to travel, parking, room and board, and meal allowance rates.
The news wasn’t as positive for members at Baffinland’s Mary River Mine in Nunavut, who received news in November that the company’s Phase 2 expansion plans had been rejected by the federal government. Despite this setback, your Union will continue the fight to protect the long-term viability of jobs at the mine. Good jobs in the north are worth fighting for.
In May, Local 793 broke with precedent to officially endorse the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party ahead of Doug Ford’s eventual re-election as premier in June. I said when the premier visited us at head office that our support was based on his government’s plans to invest $158 billion in infrastructure, as well as its support of the skilled trades – but this support is not unconditional. In November, I rejected the use of the notwithstanding clause to enforce a contract on 55,000 CUPE educational workers. As a clear threat to all workers, I added my voice to those calling for the bill’s immediate withdrawal. This was done within two weeks.
In closing, the last 12 months have filled me with pride and a renewed determination to keep this Union growing in numbers and strength. We currently represent more than 18,200 Brothers and Sisters. With exciting projects and a very busy construction season in 2023, there is plenty to look forward to. I know that together we are ready to face whatever may come our way, whether in 2023 or beyond.
Happy New Year to you all.
IUOE Local 793