Local 793’s finances remain healthy, the pension and benefit plans are on solid footing, and membership growth is stronger than ever. 

That was some of the key messages Business Manager Mike Gallagher gave to members at the Special Executive Board Meeting and General Membership Meeting this past weekend at the O.E. Banquet & Conference Centre in Oakville.

Special Executive Board Meeting

More than 125 area supervisors, business representatives, staff, members delegates, officers, retirees, and honourary lifetime members attended the Local 793 Special Executive Board Meeting on Saturday, March 26, 2022.

Business Manager Mike Gallagher opened his report recognizing the honourary lifetime members in attendance; George Bennett, Bob Giles, Bob McQueen, Michael Quinn, Claude Roberge, Pat Scott, and the newest honourary lifetime member, Alex Law.

He also recognized Executive Assistant Leanne Tabar and Membership Services Manager Debbie Coulson, two key staff members who celebrated 40 years of service with the Local earlier this month. Leanne and Debbie are the Local’s longest-serving employees.

Business Manager Gallagher was pleased to announce that 2021 was the best year the Local has ever had in terms of hours worked for the members and growth of the Union.

“Despite all the misery that we’ve been through with COVID-19 over the last two years, we came out in the best shape ever last year,” he said.

He pointed at membership growth, which now stands at 18,044 across Ontario and the territory of Nunavut. He commended the organizing team for all the work, dedication, and commitment they continue to put in for the Union.

Business Manager Gallagher spoke about some of the major collective agreements that are up for negotiation and the importance of working hard for the members to achieve the best settlement possible in these hard inflationary times.

He pointed out that many Canadians are struggling to get by as food, gas and housing prices continue to climb.

“Our members deserve an increase that keeps up with rising costs and actually results in real wage gains on top of inflation,” he said.

Business Manager Gallagher discussed the circumstances related to the pandemic over the past two years and the actions taken by Local 793 in response. He highlighted all the proactive measures Local 793 took to help mitigate the consequences of contracting the virus and re-emphasized the fact his number one priority since the onset of the pandemic has been to protect the health of members, staff and their families.

Further, he advised that factual data and medical science had grounded guidance on decision-making, including advice from Local 793 advisor, Dr. Colin Furness, BSC, MIST, PHD, MPH.

“I will stand by what we did, and I will stand by what we’re doing now,” Business Manager Gallagher said. “I don’t want a single fatality due to something we failed to do.”

He thanked those who supported the decision to implement the mandatory vaccination policy and expressed frustration with the lack of accountability for misinformation posted on social media platforms. 

Business Manager Gallagher provided an update on conditional offers to purchase properties in four targeted regions of the province. Areas include Hamilton, Oro-Medonte (serving Barrie and Simcoe County area), Sarnia, and Thunder Bay.

The executive board set a budget of $23 million to acquire properties.

Labour Relations Manager Melissa Atkins-Mahaney reported on the major collective agreements that are up for renewal, reiterating that the goal of Local 793 and the bargaining committee is, and always will be, to get the best possible settlements for the members.

Atkins-Mahaney explained how the new bargaining process operated due to COVID-19 restrictions. This includes proposals from members being submitted by email.

“On the Provincial Agreement, I think it’s safe to say we have the largest number of member proposals ever received,” Atkins-Mahaney said, and then recognized the time and effort the members put into the emailed proposals.

Atkins-Mahaney assured members that the struggles they are facing now with inflation and wage losses suffered is brought to the table by a well-armed and well-prepared negotiating team led by Business Manager Mike Gallagher, Vice-President Dave Turple, Pipeline/EPSCA representative Mike Scott and area supervisors who are very experienced in negotiations.

Local 793 area delegates reported on a number of topics, including the work situation in different locations in Ontario, including Mike Reynolds (Barrie), John Stevens (Belleville), Joe Guilbeault (Cambridge), Stephen Bianco (Hamilton), Shawn Tuttle (London), James Turner (Oshawa), James Tracy (Ottawa), Gary Johnson (Sault Ste. Marie), Gord Vandevenne (Sarnia), Greg Kelly (St. Catharines), Craig Cryderman (Sudbury), Norman Gordon (Thunder Bay), Ted Levesque (Timmins), Andrew Pelletier (Toronto), Peter Sumandl (Toronto) and Leo Tremblay (Windsor).

General Membership Meeting

The IUOE Local 793 General Membership meeting was held on Sunday, March 27, 2022. The meeting brought in 170 members to the OE Banquet & Conference Centre at head office in Oakville.

President Joe Redshaw was absent from the meeting due to contracting COVID-19, but Business Manager Gallagher assured the members that he is feeling fine and showing only mild symptoms. In accordance with the constitution, Vice President Dave Turple was delegated to fill the role as chair.

Retirees, officers and honourary lifetime members were recognized ahead of the day’s presenters.

Business Manager Gallagher recognized attendee Brother Jamie Proulx whose son, Cody, died in a tragic crane accident in 2021. Brother Cody was a 10-year member with Local 793 and a well-respected crane operator. He sat on the Union’s provincial bargaining committee in 2019 and was a voice for northeastern Ontario.

Brother Jamie has stepped into Cody’s role as area chairman for provincial bargaining and was thanked by Business Manager Gallagher for taking on the position.

Business Manager Gallagher opened his report talking about the health of the Union. He reported that members equity was $136,713,339 in 2020 and $155,446,006 in 2021. Assets of the Local were $145,535,171 in 2020 and $165,260,087 in 2021.

He gave a comprehensive update on the organizing front, including successful Ontario Labour Relations Board certificates for Fowler Construction in Board 11 Haliburton and a representation vote for employees at Roto-Mill out of Orangeville.

An update was also given on the organizing drive of utility contractor Valard Construction. Valard employs more than 800 employees comprised or operators, labourers and linesmen currently working on two major projects around Thunder Bay, northwestern and southern Ontario.

Business Manager Gallagher talked about the 793 Operator magazine going digital and the cost-saves of moving away from printed copies. He spoke about the great user experience and video content available on a digital platform but also recognized that some members still like a paper copy­.

He announced that members wanting a printed copy of the 793 Operator magazine must fill out the short request form on the Union’s website or click HERE.

The members in attendance responded with applause to the announcement.

Business Manager Gallagher reported that the benefits plan is in great shape, with a surplus of $45 million on the Life & Health fund as of December 31, 2021 (numbers are based on unaudited consolidated financial statements and 2021 figures are subject to change after the audit in April).

He reported that there have been 52 substantial improvements to the Active member Benefits Plan in the last ten years and 34 to the Retired member’s Benefits Plan.

He reflected on the improvements to mental health care, particularly with the challenges of COVID-19, and was proud that the substantial increase for the annual combined limit for Registered Psychologist, Psychotherapist, and Social Worker services increased from $2,000 to $5,000 for active members.

Following an in-depth analysis of the monthly drawdown, Business Manager Gallagher reported that the Board of Trustees of the Life & Health Plan agreed to changes to the current structure.

He reported that the monthly drawdown will be increased from $375 to $525 and will be implemented over a three-year period in $50 increments. The maximum dollar bank value will also be increased from 18 months to 24 months of coverage, implemented over a three-year period.

Also, the retiree and catastrophic reserve will be increased from 7% to 10% of benefit costs.

Business Manager Gallagher gave an update on the ongoing major collective agreements that are up for negotiation. He stated that the members deserve a monetary increase that keeps up with rising costs and actually results in real wage gains on top of inflation.

“We are working hard for our members to achieve the best settlement possible in these hard inflationary times,” he said.

He encouraged members to ensure their out-of-work dues and defence assessments are up to date to be eligible for strike pay, should it be necessary. The Defence Assessment supports members going through a strike, now and in the future.

An update was given on a ratification vote decision concerning the long-term work rotation at Baffinland Iron Mines. A majority 65% voted yes to accept the negotiated improvements in the new deal in exchange for working a long term 3 x 3 rotation.

The improvements in the new deal include keeping the same travel allowance and travel fewer times to site, the choice to get nine weeks off straight for vacation, more flexibility to schedule vacation using 1-week blocks and getting more vacation pay.

An update was also shared on Baffinland’s Phase 2 expansion project, which is currently in front of the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB). The NIRB will be issuing its recommendation on whether to approve the railway expansion plans on or before May 13th.

With a positive approval recommendation from the NIRB, Baffinland’s Mary River mine will be able to expand its current maximum production tonnage from 6 to 12 million tons per year. As a result, Baffinland’s need for more qualified workers will also get more demanding to ensure the new production capacity at the mine is reached.

Following the Business Manager’s Report, members had an opportunity to ask questions. One concerned member brought forth the affordable housing crisis and the challenge of trying to get into the housing market. He pointed out that the inflation rate is separate from where the real estate market is, which is upwards of 15-20%.

Business Manager Gallagher said this is an issue everyone should think about, including all Unions across Canada. He stated that inflation is a lesser concern then affordability and felt that there should be pressure applied to the federal government to lobby for affordability and real estate solutions.

Local 793 Pipeline/EPSCA representative Mike Scott reported successful negotiations with the Pipe Line Contractor Association of Canada (PLCAC) under the Maintenance and Service Collective Agreement.

He stated that 97.5% voted in favour of accepting the new agreement, including a 10% total wage package increase over three years.

The ratification vote was done by mail and the ballots were counted via a Zoom conference call.

Brother Scott pointed out that Local 793 and the negotiating team will begin bargaining for the Pipeline Distribution Agreement in April. He reminded members working under the agreement to submit their proposals for the upcoming round of discussions to: 2022distribution@iuoelocal793.org

Treasurer and OETIO Executive Director of Training Rick Kerr gave an in-depth Treasurer’s Report and Training Report that included updates on apprenticeship, funding, new training initiatives, eLearning and short course training.

A summary of funding from the Union Training and Innovation Program (UTIP) and Apprenticeship Capital Grant (ACG) skills training program was shared. Funding went toward new equipment upgrades that included heavy equipment, virtual reality equipment, CM Labs’ virtual reality simulators, mobile cranes, and more.

Kerr reported that OETIO has applied to the federal government’s Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program, asking for $9.9 million to support OETIO’s Indigenous training in northern Ontario and in Nunavut and to support future training needs and future district hub offices.

The Program will support projects that focus on a range of industry-driven activities such as training and reskilling workers, helping employers retain and attract a skilled and diverse workforce and other creative solutions to help sectors address labour market needs.

This would be the largest capital investment in OETIO’s history if successful.

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