Local 793 continues to head in the right direction, business manager Mike Gallagher said at a special e-board meeting Sept. 23 in Oakville.

“You’re starting to get used to me always getting up here and giving good news,” he said in remarks to more than 100 area supervisors, business reps, staff and delegates at head office. “But the truth is that the local continues to be on an upward trajectory.”

Gallagher noted that Local 793 has invested heavily in advanced equipment at the two OETIO training centres.

A new 85 EC-B5 tower crane erected recently in Oakville is a “jewel,” he said, and training staff should be congratulated, as a bottom climb of the crane has now been completed.

“Now we can get busy and provide the latest training to the industry.”

The crane will enable students to be trained in top- and bottom-climbing procedures. A six-storey steel structure has been erected around the base of the crane so it can be raised and lowered.

Gallagher noted that the OETIO will also be purchasing a 50-ton Liebherr duty cycle crane to augment its mobile-crane-training program.

“When you’re on top you got to stay on top,” he said.

Gallagher said training has advanced a lot in the last few years.

“Just take a look at the residence we built at the OETIO in Morrisburg,” he said, referring to the 70-room dorm that was part of extensive renovations to the building there.

“It’s a real class facility and we pulled that off without borrowing any money.”

Gallagher said the union purchased 6.14 acres of property next to head office in Oakville from Procor Ltd. and plans to build a residence on the land so students can stay on-site rather than at area hotels.

The property was purchased in June without a hitch, he said, and Procor is leasing part of a building on the property back from the union until the end of the year while another tenant will be leasing additional space for another two years.

“The property we bought has already been put to use bringing in revenue for the local.”

Gallagher said the value of the property has also increased, partly because of its proximity to a nearby Go Station so it’s already paying off.

“It’s been a great purchase and we’re lucky to have been able to buy it.”

Gallagher told the meeting that organizers are in the process of trying to organize Baffinland, a large mining company in Nunavut.

The union’s charter was expanded a while ago to include the Territory of Nunavut because it made sense for one local to be doing organizing there, he noted, and organizers are attempting to make inroads.

“We have taken that seriously and have been going to trade shows,” he said. “It’s not one of these things that you can snap your fingers and it’s going to happen. They don’t have a lot of experience with unions.”

He noted that manager of organizing Kyle Schutte was in Nunavut and met with the president of Baffinland.

Gallagher said he was also pleased that the provincial government intends to go ahead with a road to the Ring of Fire area and the union hopes to work with Indigenous communities and unionized contractors like Aecon when the bidding opens.

He pointed out that the union has already been training members of Indigenous communities in the area.

“My hope is that when the $1-billion-plus road goes to tender it’s our contractors and our Aboriginal members that they bring on board.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rightly spoke about Canada’s sad history with Indigenous peoples at the United Nations, Gallagher said, but Local 793 has already been working over the years to bring Indigenous people into the Operating Engineer trades.

Over the centuries, Indigenous people had promises to them broken all the time, and the best way to avoid that is to have a collective agreement in place to ensure contractors keep their promises, he said.

“We are match made in heaven when it comes to working with native communities.”

Gallagher said the union signed a Statement of Partnership with the Chiefs of Ontario last year in an effort to get more Indigenous people into the trades.

In his remarks, Gallagher said the union recently received good news from the province that Durham College will not be getting training delivery agent status for training tower crane operators.

The College had applied for status about 18 months ago and the matter was resolved by the Ministry of Training, but the school went back to the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) with more information and applied again.

Gallagher said he and OETIO executive director Harold McBride reached out to people in different ministries and he recently received notice that the College will not be approved.

“We got what we wanted which is very good for our local.”

On the green energy front, Gallagher said a coalition that he brought together, called the Renewable Energy Alliance of Ontario (REAO), has made inroads into ensuring renewable energy projects remain part of the government’s Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP).

The REAO was formed when the province announced it was cutting some projects.

“Instead of just sitting back and letting things happen, we got out and made things happen,” he said. “We’re going to keep after that.”

“We’re trying to keep the government on point and investing in an important sector, and I think we’re being successful.”

Gallagher said he is hopeful the government’s LTEP will include some of the REAO’s recommendations.

Renewable energy projects, he said, provide good jobs for members and the jurisdiction of Local 793 looks good in those sectors, as Operating Engineers are running forklifts and doing rigging on the projects.

On staffing, Gallagher said the local has 147 staff members across the province and 19.7 per cent have been hired in the last two years.

As a result, he said, the local will continue to train staff and develop internal policies so knowledge is passed to newer recruits as older members retire.

One duty of the business manager, he said, is to ensure new staff is being hired and knowledge is being transferred.

“We’ve worked way to darn hard over the 20 years I have been here to lose one iota of momentum. We’re not forgetting that we have to take care of business in-house as we look to retirements of senior people.”

Also at the meeting:

  • Gallagher said the local had 22 jurisdictional disputes (JDs) when it left the Provincial Building Trades organization a few years ago and now has only one. The rest were settled in favour of Local 793. He noted the local also signed a Mutual Co-operation Agreement with LIUNA Local 183 and reports suggest it is working.
  • The insurance committee voted to add retiree Brian Madigan to the list of honorary lifetime members. Brian was area supervisor for Northwestern Ontario, a trustee and executive board member, and pension and training trustee.