Local 793 has grown over the years into a strong and formidable union because of the dedication of its members, business manager Mike Gallagher said at a long-service awards ceremony held Dec. 3 in the banquet hall at head office in Oakville.

“You built this organization, you fought for the union, you supported the union, and you decided to work safe and raise standards and you in here are the reason that we are great.

“Thank you for the skills that you bring every single day to the job and enhancing the reputation of this organization, and helping us raise the profile and get stronger still.”

More than 300 long-service operators and family members attended the two-hour long ceremony. Awards were given out for 65, 60, 55, 50, 40 and 30 years of service.

Gallagher said the long-service members are the “iron core” of the organization.

He noted the road to the present day hasn’t been easy, and members fought many battles to ensure they got good collective agreements that didn’t have any rollbacks.

Over the years, he said, members also made sure they didn’t allow governments to undermine everything they’d accomplished.

“We’ve been very, very successful and I’m very grateful for that. And we did it because we’re united.”

Gallagher said the union wants to ensure it looks after all members and their families and make sure they have strong pensions and good benefits.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve the benefit plan for all members so we can be leaders of all the trades which we have been and will continue to be.”

Gallagher said he was happy to be able to tell members that the pension plan is now at $2.4 billion

“It’s very, very strong and it’s having a good year. It’s a big priority to make sure that when you retire you have a good pension and can enjoy your grandchildren and you can enjoy your time traveling.”

Gallagher noted that Joe Kennedy, former business manager of the union, was receiving his 65-year award.

He said Kennedy “took a gamble on a young rookie” and hired him as a business rep in 1987.

“It was one of the best days of my life, other than my children being born and marrying my wife,” said Gallagher. “I had the opportunity to come to work for such a great organization. I’ve never taken that for granted.”

Gallagher said that Kennedy was responsible for getting the pension and benefit plans under way at Local 793.

“Joe was responsible, as a leader at that time, for convincing members that these were important things and fighting for them and putting them in place. I think that Joe really deserves a lot of credit for the great leadership that he showed for this organization back when he was business manager.”

Kennedy was business manager for 18 years. He was first elected in 1974 and held the post until his retirement in 1992. He was elected five consecutive times.

Gallagher said it was because of Kennedy that he was given the opportunity to serve members.

“That happened because Joe took a risk on a young guy and allowed me to come in and see what I could do.”

More than 400 long-service members were eligible for awards.

Winners of the Douglas H. Campbell Awards were:

  • Matthew Schep of Aurora – top tower crane apprentice
  • Kevin Merrifield – top mobile crane apprentice