I’d like to wish all brothers and sisters of Local 793 a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! This year has not been an easy one. Last New Years’ when we rang in 2020, we certainly did not expect to face such enormous challenges a short 3 months later. December 2019 was the first time we heard the term “coronavirus”. Although, strictly contained to the Wuhan province of China at the time, it was not something we concerned ourselves with. But as we know, by March 2020 that false sense of security was shattered, as we swiftly found ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic.
What we now call “COVID-19”, has impacted us in an unparalleled way. The world as we knew it ground to a halt around mid-March when both the Ontario and Nunavut governments began ordering the closure of non-essential businesses, and we have not resumed a ‘normal state of operation’ since that time. Things we had come to take for granted like visiting with friends and family, going to a restaurant, concert, movie, or even seeing an unobstructed view of someone’s face – these things were all taken from us, seemingly overnight.
Many businesses and organizations like our own were shut down for months. Many families struggled financially as employees, ours included, began being laid off. Yet some people were not given the option of taking shelter at home and were obligated to carry on working due to the essential nature of their job. These people – grocery store staff, healthcare workers, etc. – are our frontline workers and I hope we never forget their enormous contribution to our country, as they kept us fed and cared for during a time of great fear.
As an organization representing more than 17,000 workers in the construction, mining and industrial sectors, we have to count ourselves lucky. When the virus hit Canada there was much uncertainty, and I did not know whether the government was going to allow our members to keep on working. During this extremely stressful time I sat at my kitchen table with a pen and pad of paper, contacting each and every one of our signatory contractors to inquire whether or not they were going to shut their jobs down. This is also when I started my “vlog” style videos in an effort to keep the membership informed on industry news with regards to COVID-19.
After much deliberation, Ontario Premier Doug Ford ultimately announced that a large majority of the construction industry would remain up and running as an essential service, and fortunately, the mining industry in Nunavut remained up and running as well. This was no small thing and has allowed Local 793 to survive the economic devastation of COVID-19. Upon hearing this good news I was able to turn my attention to the COVID-19 Local 793 Safety Protocol for Jobsite Measures which was set up to ensure members were best protected from the virus. After being re-elected to serve my 7th term as business manager in September, I was able to hire back much of our staff, and shortly thereafter our training schools were reopened with strict COVID-19 contingency measures.
Some organizations were not as lucky as ours, and many will not survive this pandemic. As we ring in the New Year and celebrate the end of a very hard one, we should think of those less fortunate than ourselves.
Like the many before, this chapter in Local 793’s story will be one of resilience. Chronicled in the 100th anniversary journal sent out to the membership, is a pattern of hard times followed by big victories. The challenges presented by COVID-19 have seemed insurmountable at times, and they are far from over. Yet as always, this incredible organization will come out on top, all thanks to you – our hard-working members that never quit.
When this is all over, may the things that we could not do bring new meaning and value to us all. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2021! Remember, the best is yet to come!