Union is doing well on all fronts

The IUOE Local 793 held a special executive board meeting at the union head office in Oakville on Saturday, September 22. The more than 125 attendees included area supervisors, business reps, staff, delegates, officers and special guest and special guests such as honourary lifetime members.

Special Executive Board Meeting on Saturday, September 22. More than 125 attendees.

Speakers shared that Local 793 now has more than 15,000 members, more companies are being organized and membership support is going high-tech with new web and smart phone access to training records and the pension and benefit plans.

Ronald C. Loucks from NexgenRx
was the first to the podium to present Local 793’s new self-administration tool for the pension and benefit plans.

“It is an exciting time for us to be part of the operating engineers,” said Loucks.

Once NexgenRx is implemented, Local 793 members will have access to real time, online claim submissions. Loucks said that transactions can be processed in 3.4 seconds. He added that NexgenRx will bring fast, simple and useful solutions to the members for health benefit claims and pension status.

Members will be able to submit claims by web, email, and mobile app. The app can be downloaded from iTunes and Google, accessible for both iPhone and Android phone users. Members can even submit claims by sending a photo from their smart phone.

Submissions by mail will remain available and members will still have access to their plans by phone.

Loucks’ presentation included a demo of the online portal, showing a user-friendly access point to submit, follow and manage claims at any time in the process, including accessing one’s history.

Strategic plan
John O’Grady from Prism Economics
, who helped develop the strategic plan for the union, walked members through Local 793’s new direction and updated five-year strategic plan (2018-2023). It was developed after consultation with staff across the province.

This strategic plan will give guidance to the business manager and the executive board as the Local moves forward for the next five years. Copies of the new plan were distributed at the meeting. O’Grady highlighted some elements in the plan including Local 793’s goal of developing and providing highly skilled workers, improving the standard of living for members and realizing a mandate of making safe workplaces.

Over the last five years, O’Grady noted that Local 793 had been a leader in the industry in collective bargaining and in pushing benchmarks for wage settlements and improvements in benefits. He said that the Local has “some of the most complete and rigorous training found anywhere in the building and construction industry.”

The Local will continue to invest in staff training and development, including organizer training and Webinar Wednesdays. O’Grady further commented that “the staff is second to none.”

Business manager’s report
Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher opened his remarks stating that it is a very good time to be an operating engineer. “We are at a pinnacle of our membership and the union is doing well on all fronts,” Gallagher said. “You don’t have to look far to see just where we’re at and how strong we are.”

He also recognized honourary lifetime members, committee members and guest delegates in attendance.

Gallagher spoke of the Local’s history, particularly in the mid-1990s and living through a recession and the turbulent times of existing under international supervision. It was a time he called “soul destroying.”

When Gallagher was first elected business manager in 1996, he found the Local divided. They faced two provincial strikes (in 1998 and 2007) and a number of local strikes. The members came together and continued to come together to work through these times as they organized.

“The shame of that supervision, we had to wash it off,” said Gallagher. “We would show the contractors and the industry that we were a power to be reckoned with.”

They wanted to build a new head office, a new training centre and have a fresh start. The Local presented it to the members as a referendum and more than 80 per cent supported this vision.

In July of this year, Gallagher appointed Joe Dowdall as the first government affairs representative. This was in direct response to feedback from members. This role allows one person to dedicate themselves fulltime political engagement. Dowdall is making inroads in the community and at the provincial and federal levels, which is essential for the Local to mitigate issues.

Noting upcoming opportunities, he mentioned the mining sector and getting those people organized. He also commented on the expansion in Oakville, the residence building for the instructors and students and the potential of lease revenue from the adjacent property.

“All these things will give us the opportunity to do more here and in the outlying areas,” said Gallagher.

He mentioned the Local’s win in a jurisdictional dispute, challenging demolition work against LiUNA, beating the labourers with Delsan AIM at Hydro down at the Nanticoke decommissioned coal generator in Haldimand County. The work in dispute was performed in the electrical power systems sector of the construction industry and was found to be a violation of the Local’s Electrical Power Systems Construction Association (“EPSCA”) agreement.

At the end of his report, Gallagher introduced two videos:

VIDEO pension increase: This was a historic first. Pension meetings with management trustees had never been videotaped. The video shows the moment when the resolution was passed for the 2.5 per cent increase to Local 793’s pension for active members and retirees.

Gallagher shared two examples of what this increase could mean for members.

Active Member Example

  • Benefit earned for contributions remitted up to December 31, 2018
    = $1,200 per month payable at retirement
  • Effective January 1, 2019, 2.5% increase applies to above benefit
    • 2.5% times $ 1,200 = $30 increase
      • Total benefit earned as of January 1, 2019 will then be equal to
    • $1,200 + $30 = $1,230 per month

Pensioner Example

  • Pensioner is currently receiving a pension of $2,400 per month
  • Starting with January 1, 2019 payment, 2.5% increase will apply
    • 2.5% times $2,400 = $60 increase in monthly pension
    • Pension payable starting January 1, 2019
    • $2,400 + $60 = $2,460 per month
    • Pension of $2,460 per month payable for the rest of pensioners lifetime

VIDEO walk through of the building under renovations at 2201 Speers Road in Oakville. It will give Local 793 an additional 27,000 square feet. Some of the space will be used for staff. Gallagher said that after renovations, the building will be worth $14 to $16 per square foot as additional leasing revenue to the Local.

André Chénier, IUOE international representative, shared his experience with Local 904 in Newfoundland coming under international supervision, saying the biggest challenge was winning over the membership.

Chénier spoke of his experiences related to the Supervision of Local 904 and the role business manager, Mike Gallagher played as the appointed chair of the three-member International Panel.  As directed by general president Callahan the panel conducted a two-day hearing in St. John’s, Newfoundland. As prescribed by the International Constitution the panel heard evidence from the membership of Local 904 and International Staff regarding the need for International Supervision. Gallagher was very complementary on the way the members participated in the process and spoke to the proud history of Local 904. At the end of the hearing the membership applauded the efforts of the panel members and the staff.

“That was when the tides started to change in Local 904,” said Chénier. “We were winning the hearts and minds of the members one at a time.”

It was a unique situation. Local 904 is very financially sound, something their 2,400 members had not received reports on in a very long time. Chénier was surprised at the lack of organizing within Local 904, commenting “they had not organized a company from the ground up since 2001 and outside of special projects they had lost market share in the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector.” There are only two signatory road building companies for all of Newfoundland and Labrador, he stated. He found that employers, union or non-union had lost all respect for the brand of Operating Engineers. Clearly, good financial resources and plenty of work doesn’t necessarily ensure a strong local. Good governance supported by the membership is key to success and Local 793 is a great example of this.

“When called upon, business manager Gallagher has been very supportive in providing Local 793’s policies, rules and procedures which has assisted Local 904 in establishing a process of accountability and transparency.”

Whether it was at provincial membership information meetings, one on one meetings with members or training new staff, I often told them our story about Local 793 coming out of international supervision in the early nineties and how it grew into the largest Local in Canada. “I always tell them my favorite saying: this is how we do it at Local 793.”

With a team that has grown to 12 organizers, Kyle Schutte, organizer manager, said that this is the largest organizing team that the Local has ever had.

He recognized some new organizers including Aaron Pede in St. Catharines, Scott Langdon in Binbrook and Brock McBride in Oakville. Schutte shared a story of how Langdon, when instructed not to be seen, got stuck in a swamp in a forest and took hours to find his way back out. Schutte suggested (jokingly) that this should be part of all organizer training as it was a good learning experience.

When Schutte and labour relations coordinator Daveen Lidstone visited the new organizers in training in Morrisburg and they found them still awake, studying, working on homework in a classroom at 1 a.m. He was impressed by their dedication.

He went on to list companies for which the Local has filed applications for certification at the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). He also mentioned an application for certification filed at the Canada Industrial Relations Board for Baffinland Iron Mines.

Labour relations manager Melissa Atkins-Mahaney gave a timely presentation about cannabis and the operating engineers. As of October 17, people 19-and-over in Canada will legally be able to buy, use, possess and grow recreational cannabis. And it will remain legal for people to buy, use and possess cannabis for authorized medical usage.

Atkins-Mahaney’s presentation was titled “Navigating your way through the weeds.” She encouraged members, if they hadn’t already, to read the labour relations report in the last issue of 793 Operator magazine. It discussed cannabis and separating myth from fact.

“We are tasked with providing a safe working environment for our members,” she said.

Consumption of cannabis can lead to impairment and Health Canada has stated for many years that cannabis will impair a user for 24 hours after use.

She added that cannabis can cause consistent impairment that can go on for weeks or months after use and can be amplified in high altitudes. One then immediately thinks of crane operators and the high elevations of some work sites.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), workers in safety sensitive positions are required to report for work FIT FOR DUTY. Atkins-Mahaney explained that this means that they must be free of impairment; free of drugs or alcohol or anything that would cause any level of impairment.

In an effort to provide guidance to Local 793 members out in the field, she announced that business manager Gallagher has instructed her and the legal department to develop an internal policy on drugs and alcohol to be adopted by the members as best practices.

The Local is looking at the policy adopted by the Canadian Armed Forces, which is similar from a safety sensitive work model. Key features of the policy will include

  • standards of conduct, whether it be recreational or medically prescribed,
  • prohibition against the misuse of cannabis,
  • an obligation to advise a supervisor if a member believes he or she is impaired by cannabis or any substance,
  • standards of use including no consumption
    • during the work day or while on shift,
    • during training related to one’s job,
    • during the 24 hours before performing safety sensitive work.

She warned that we should expect employers to engage more and more in random testing and pre-employment testing.

Atkins-Mahaney concluded by saying “Our goals are to ensure that our members are out there operating safely and within the confines of the law. We want people to be responsible and to report for work FIT FOR DUTY.”

Gallagher followed Atkins-Mahaney with a strong statement to members.

“At this point in our history, we are going to be part of the solution. We cannot have sympathy anymore for members that put themselves or other workers at risk out on the job site,” he said. “I, as a business manager, am NOT going to be an enabler.

“Our members need to be responsible. If they need help with alcohol or drugs, we will get them the help they need. But we don’t want them that way on the job, we don’t want them on the highways.”

Local 793 expects their members to be FIT FOR WORK and will put the policy guidelines in place to protect their members, other workers, the public and their union.

Dave Turple, Local 793 director of Toronto area, reported on the 100thanniversary planning for 2019. He unveiled the 100thanniversary logo designed by IT manager Armand Dowdall. Turple reminded attendees that they should email their anniversary slogan ideas to executive@iuoelocal793.org. The contest closes October 31. He shared the area locations that will host picnics and said that the picnic and celebration for the Toronto area will be at the Oakville head office.

The executive director of the Operating Engineers Training Institute of Ontario (OETIO), Harold McBride, was next to report to members. He spoke of the importance of advancing and training through technology and delivering highly skilled operators to industry.

McBride’s report included a presentation of a newly updated, yet to be released website portal developed internally by the Local and OETIO. It also included a preview of the new website.

IT manager Dowdall demonstrated how members would have direct access to their training records, both upcoming and past. It will be available from the website to view or print and accessible from a smart phone.

This speaks to the flexibility of access for members. Gallagher commented that members could immediately show their certification on their iPhone or Android device. And this could be done anywhere with internet access, even for a request on site from a supervisor or the Ministry of Labour (MOL).

In closing, Local 793 area delegates reported on the work situation in different locations in Ontario including Matt Loree (Cambridge), Normand McLeod (Oshawa), Rob Bowden (St. Catharines), Stephen Bianco (Hamilton), Ottawa area rep Jim Laginski presented on behalf of Duke Bott (Ottawa), Angelo Teti (Windsor), Mike Lavallee (Sudbury), Matthew Maginnis (Toronto), who started his presentation with gratitude to the Helmets to Hardhats program which helps war veterans transition into construction work, Jonathan McMaster (London), Matt Pritchard (Belleville), Mike Reynolds (Barrie), John Miners (Sault Ste. Marie), Rob Stadey (Thunder Bay), Sebastian Sepeta (Toronto) and Gord Vandevenne (Sarnia).