Local 793 is thriving and the union’s finances and pension and benefits plans remain in good shape.
That was one of the messages delivered by union business manager Mike Gallagher at a general membership meeting of the union held at head office in Oakville on Sept. 27.
“The union continues to grow. We had 13,621 initiated members as of August 17,” he said in his report to nearly 300 members at the meeting. “To give you some context, in two years that’s growth of about 2,000 members.”
Gallagher noted that the Operating Engineers Training Institute of Ontario is also running full-out and is on the way to exceeding 13,000 student training days for the year.
Despite the global economic turmoil, Gallagher said, the work picture remains bright across Ontario.
He said phase two of the Eglinton Crosstown project was awarded to a consortium of EllisDon, ACS Infrastructure Canada, Aecon and SNC-Lavalin, and phase two of the Highway 407 East project was awarded to Blackbird Infrastructure Group which includes Holcim Canada Inc., Dufferin Construction and Ferrovial Agroman Canada.
Construction of a 28-megawatt hydroelectric generating project at New Post Creek is also underway and will employ 60 operators over three years, he said.
Meanwhile, Gallagher said, 207 operators are also employed on New Gold’s $900-million Rainy River Mine northwest of Fort Frances.
As for future projects, he said, Bruce Power is contemplating a lot of work and has plans to spend $1.5 billion a year for 18 years on projects, including reactor refurbishments.
“That is going to provide good work for us and the other trades.”
Construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge over the Detroit River in Windsor, meantime, is expected to start in 2017, he said, and will also provide good work for members.
On the financial front, Gallagher said consolidated members’ equity was $79,493,978 as of June 30 – 13.7 per cent higher than the previous year – while consolidated assets of the union were $85,238,685 as of the same date – 13.4 per cent higher than previous year.
Total hours worked for the six-month period ending June 30 were 8,189,764 – 8.2 per cent higher than the previous year, he said.
On the pension front, Gallagher said, the plan returned 10 per cent in 2014 – much higher than the six-per-cent return needed to keep the plan healthy.
He said preliminary data shows the plan returned 7.3 per cent to July 31, 2015 but that has likely dropped to close to four per cent as a result of recent market turmoil.
On the benefits front, Gallagher said the plan is in good shape with a surplus.
He noted a number of improvements went into effect retroactive to Sept. 1, 2015 and more are coming on stream on Jan. 1, 2016.
Improvements retroactive to Sept. 1, 2015 include:
- The death benefit for active members increased to $150,000 from $125,000.
- The death benefit for spouses and dependents of active members increased to $12,000 from $10,000.
- The death benefit for retirees increased to $30,000 from $25,000.
Improvements coming on Jan. 1, 2016 include:
- Vision care for active and retired members will rise to $600 from $400 every 24 months.
- Active members will be given three days off for the birth of a child and paid $175 per day from the plan, provided they lose wages.
- The retiree supplementary health care medical expense maximum will be raised to $50,000 from $40,000.
Improvements coming to the group legal plan on Jan. 1, 2016 include:
- Purchase of family dwelling – raised to $550 from $450
- Sale of family dwelling – raised to $550 from $450
- Purchase lot for family dwelling – raised to $550 from $450
- Purchase/sale vacation property – raised to $550 from $450
- Transfer of title – raised to $300 from $250
- Mortgage new or renewal – raised to $400 from $300
- Divorce for member – raised to $700 from $600
- Divorce for spouse – raised to $700 from $600
- Property and custody support for member – raised to $700 from $600
- Separation agreement for member – raised to $700 from $600
- Separation agreement for spouse – raised to $700 from $600
- Defendant representation – raised to $3,000 (not based on hours) from 20 hours at $150/hour
- Plaintiff representation – raised to $3,000 (not based on hours) from 20 hours at $150/hour
- Criminal Code of Canada matters – raised to $850 from $700
In other business at the meeting, Gallagher asked for and received a motion to have Frank Hawkins’ name engraved on the back of a chair that will be placed at future general membership and Oshawa meetings.
Hawkins, a 52-year member of the union, died Sept. 24, 2015. He was a regular at the Oshawa meetings.
Gallagher said it’s a very fitting tribute to Hawkins.