2013 was a prosperous year for Local 793 and I am looking forward to another good one in 2014.
We are one of the fastest growing locals in North America with more than 13,000 members. The Operating Engineers Training Institute of Ontario (OETIO) campuses in Oakville and Morrisburg are at capacity, our finances are healthy, and our pension and life and health benefits plans are also in great shape.
We started off the year on the right foot, successfully negotiating a new Provincial Collective Agreement that provided members a total monetary package increase of $3.95 an hour over three years and language aimed at improving protective equipment supplied to operators working in the concrete pumping sector. The settlement set the tone for other collective agreements negotiated throughout the year.
On the organizing front, we had a number of significant victories in 2013. We presently have eight organizers on staff and they were very busy throughout the year.
We successfully certified Chartrand Construction of Timmins and brought more than 200 new members into the union. We also certified Clarida Construction, a company in northern Ontario that builds wind and solar farms. This was a particularly important victory for us as CLAC was trying to organize the company’s workers at the same time. In the end, the workers chose to be represented by our union.
We also certified a number of other companies around the province in 2013, including Sartor and Susan Erosion Control in Vaughan, M. Fudda, a sewer and watermain company in the Barrie area, D. Crupi and Sons Ltd. in Scarborough, Jeff Parnell Contracting near Peterborough, Peter’s Excavating Inc. in Fort Erie, A-1 Asphalt in Hamilton, and Cleave Energy, a company in Picton that specializes in solar panel installations. Meanwhile, a number of other certification applications are pending at the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB).
At the OLRB, we also successfully defended our jurisdiction in a dispute with Labourers’ Local 247 out of Kingston. We were assigned all of the equipment work on the site related to the preparation and installation of solar panel posts, however, the Labourers claimed the loading, unloading, handling and distribution of the foundation posts on site and the moving and pouring of concrete was their jurisdiction. The OLRB didn’t buy the argument and upheld the contractor’s assignment of work to Local 793 members.
In the summer, we conducted a membership survey to gauge how our union is doing and identify where we needed to make improvements. Improving business rep visibility was an action item and I recently hired five new business reps to better serve our members, along with a northern resource development rep to work out of the Barrie office.
In the survey, members also told us they wanted more information and communication on political and legislative issues and more online resources via our website. As a result, we introduced an electronic newsletter called Local 793 E-News. I encourage members to sign up for the newsletter by visiting our website and clicking on the red Members Login button at the top right and then following the directions.
We are also revamping our website to provide more online functionality and will be re-launching the site by spring. Members will be able to pay their dues online, check the status of their benefits, buy union apparel, as well as use the pension calculator to figure out different retirement scenarios.
The newly revamped website will also feature a political action tab that members will be able to click on to find out more information about political and legislative issues that affect them. Meanwhile, we are also embarking on a political action campaign against Bill C-377 and Right to Work. Hardhat stickers and leaflets are being distributed by business reps.
In 2013, we also made important inroads with First Nations communities in Ontario. IUOE Canadian regional director Jim Murphy and I will be meeting with the Assembly of First Nations to discuss training opportunities. Aecon chief operating officer Teri McKibbon and I agreed on a plan to get more Aboriginals working on projects in northern Ontario and our union also teamed up Gheztoojig Employment and Training to get more Aboriginals working on the expansion of Highway 69 near Sudbury. Meanwhile, we are running a series of articles in SAY Magazine in February that promote training at the OETIO.
On the training front, we remain at the forefront of training at the OETIO. We have pioneered new training courses in concrete pumping and drill rigs and we’re also changing with the times by offering e-learning courses online. We have spearheaded the development of mechanical and virtual reality simulators and developed a wind turbine erection scenario that uses two cranes. This past spring, we developed a drill rig simulator.
On the benefits front, trustees decided to make a number of improvements to our life and health benefits plan. The improvements come into effect Jan. 1, 2014. For more information, call Local 793’s pension and benefits office at 905-469-9299 or (toll free) 1-877-793-4863.
As of Jan. 1, 2014, Local 793 members will also have access to a Members Assistance Program (MAP) through Great West Life and Schepell.fgi. The MAP is a confidential and voluntary support service that can help members find solutions to all kinds of challenges at any age and stage of life.
The MAP offers assistance for stress, depression, anxiety, anger, crisis situations and life transitions. It also offers help for:
- Managing relationships and family
- Finding child and elder care resources
- Getting legal advice
- Getting financial advice
- Dealing with workplace challenges
- Tackling addictions
- Improving nutrition
To find out more about the MAP, call 1-800-387-4765.
On the pension front, our plan is doing well and the fund’s investment managers are bringing in returns better than the market. The strong returns are due to a rebound in investment markets and healthy work levels.
Contributions to the plan are expected to be about $111 million in 2013, the highest amount ever.
Early unreduced retirement at age 60 will continue until at least Sept. 1, 2015.
Meanwhile, at our dinner dance in November, I presented a cheque for $104,114 to the University Health Network for research into esophageal cancer.
The funds were raised at the second annual Gary O’Neill Memorial Golf Tournament held this past summer.
Just before Christmas, I received notice that financial secretary John W. Anderson, our assistant business manager, would be leaving to take up a new position and challenge as an administrator at Global Benefits. I know it was a tough decision for John. He has been with our union for 28 years. I hate to lose him but this is a new challenge for him and I certainly wish him all the best.
I recruited John as a business rep years ago and appointed him as assistant business manager in 1996. He has certainly contributed to our success as a union.
John will be available to provide assistance to us for a transition period of several months. He takes up his new position full-time at the beginning of March.
John joins in a fine tradition at Local 793 where members like Jack Redshaw and Ernie Ford moved on to second careers and made us proud.
I announced John’s departure at a staff function in December. John told staff that it wasn’t an easy decision for him.
He said he never thought he’d end up as assistant business manager at our union and he thanked the many people who helped him along the way.
John had some very nice words to say about the union and myself, and I thank him for that.
As for the future, our union faces a number of challenges in 2014, namely the right-wing agenda being proposed by PC Leader Tim Hudak.
If Hudak gets his way, years of gains for workers would be scrapped and we would embrace right-to-work legislation that he’s proposing. He wants to get rid of the Rand formula, which requires all employees in a closed union shop to pay dues. The Rand formula promotes stability and ensures unions have the resources to negotiate on behalf of their members.
Such legislation would undo the gains that unions have made in securing wages, benefits and pensions.
Hudak must be stopped. With the possibility of a provincial election looming this spring, it is important for Local 793 members to be aware of what he is proposing. Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric. His plans would be devastating for Ontario and its unionized workers.
On a happier note, Local 793 will be celebrating its 95th anniversary in 2014. We are planning to hold a number of events in the various districts throughout the year. Information about these events will be posted on our website and in our magazines, so stay tuned.
Local 793 has always been a leader in the construction industry. We have grown over the years because of the strength of our membership and the vision of our leaders.
In 2014, I intend to make sure we continue that tradition. I am confident that our union will remain strong and continue to prosper – as we have done in the past.
IUOE Local 793