The membership of Local 793 is growing and the financials are solid, business manager Mike Gallagher reported at a special e-board meeting in Oakville on March 25.
“We are in very good shape as an organization,” he told about 100 delegates. “I would argue that there is none better, certainly among Operating Engineer locals, in North America.”
Gallagher said the number of active and retired union members now stands at 14,700 – and continues to rise.
“We are doing well as an organization, on every single point,” he said. “There’s a lot going on. All of it is good.”
Meanwhile, the local is respected and the officers have plenty of plans for the future, he noted.
“Certainly nobody takes us for granted.”
Gallagher reported that latest figures show the union’s pension plan is now 102 per cent funded on a going-concern basis and assets have grown to more than $2.5 billion.
The union is also lobbying government for permanent changes to funding rules governing multi-employer pension plans, he said, so as to allow Local 793 trustees to continue managing the plan on a going-concern basis and not have to pass a solvency test.
The solvency test is designed to protect members of single-employer plans in the event their employer goes bankrupt. Plans must have enough money to pay out the full value of pensions. But with more than 800 participating employers, chances of Local 793’s plan ending are low.
The province has temporarily allowed multi-employer pension plans to be managed on a going-concern basis but Gallagher said Local 793 and other unions want the provisional rules made permanent.
The life and health benefits plan, meanwhile, is also in good shape, Gallagher noted, with a surplus of $73 million in reserve for future benefits.
Whenever possible, benefit plan trustees will try to improve benefits for members, he said.
Financially, Gallagher said, assets of the union now total more than $101 million, up substantially from $2 million about 20 years ago.
On the manpower front, he said another five organizers were hired along with a new business rep, Kelly Burla, for the London area.
On labour relations, Gallagher said the union has won 10 jurisdictional disputes over the last 20 years, and he feels particularly good how the local has defended its turf.
He said the union recently received notice that it won a jurisdictional dispute with the Labourers over the use of telehandlers and skid steers at an HB White solar farm near Napanee.
At a markup meeting, HB White had said that Operating Engineers would handle all continuous use operation of telehandlers, but the Labourers challenged that.
The arbitrator in the case ruled there was no reason to interfere in the work assignments and said from an economy and efficacy point of view it made sense for Local 793 members to do the work.
Gallagher said it’s good to see that arbitrators are starting to use language about continuous use of equipment in favour of Operating Engineers.
He said the efficacy argument used to be against Local 793 but in the HB White ruling the arbitrator essentially said that no contractor in their right mind would invest a large amount of dollars in equipment to leave it idle.
He said other IUOE locals now want copies of the decision and the ruling could make a difference in North America.
Also at the meeting:
OETIO executive director Harold McBride reported that more than 200 crane and heavy equipment apprentices will be trained at the campuses in Oakville and Morrisburg in 2017, and the province has awarded the OETIO $2.7 million to offset the training costs.
A new Liebherr 85 EC-B5 tower crane has been erected at the OETIO campus in Oakville, he said, and a supporting structure is being built so the crane can be used to train students on top- and bottom-climbing procedures. The OETIO is the only training centre in the world that offers such training.
McBride said the OETIO has received $317,000 from the province to offset the cost of providing rock truck training in 2017, and a pipeline-training program that was introduced at the OETIO has been extremely successful, with 217 members trained in 21 courses.
Meanwhile, 17 drill rig training courses have been held at the OETIO, with 116 members trained, he said.
South Central Ontario area supervisor Virgil Nosé reported that the governors of the College of Trades have been asked to initiate a review to determine if the trade of concrete pump operator should be made compulsory.
He said the heavy equipment operator trade board requested the review.
Nosé said that concrete pumps have evolved and are larger and there have been deaths, injuries and significant property damage from accidents.
Meanwhile, a coroner’s report recommended that operators of concrete pump receive mandatory training, he said.
Nosé said he is optimistic that the trade of concrete pump operator is closer than ever to being classified as compulsory.