Local 793 is in good shape and membership numbers continue to grow, business manager Mike Gallagher told a general membership meeting in the union banquet hall March 23.
“We now have 12,539 initiated members and more than 900 waiting to be processed,” he told nearly 200 union members at the meeting.
By the end of the year, he noted, the union will have more than 13,000 initiated members.
“This really shows our strength as an organization.”
Gallagher said the growth is a tribute to the organizers who work so hard and are often put in difficult situations when trying to bring new companies into the fold.
“They are doing their job and we are adding members, so that’s a good thing.”
Gallagher noted that hours worked by members is also up, and members’ equity is $68 million, up from $2.5 million when he was first elected in 1996.
The defence fund, meanwhile, is at $4.6 million, he said, 9.2 per cent higher than the previous year.
He also reported that the pension and life and health benefits plan are also healthy.
The ‘solvency’ windup situation has improved to $864 million and the ‘going concern” shortfall is now at $103 million, an improvement from $192 million at December 2012, he said.
“Obviously, we’ve had a very good year with the pension.”
Gallagher said the life and health benefits plan is also faring well and trustees recently announced a number of improvements, including a new Member Assistance Plan, that were announced in the 793 Operator magazine and have been posted on the union website.
Gallagher addressed a number of other topics at the meeting as well.
For example:
On recent bylaw changes approved by union members, Gallagher said they will ensure the local remains healthy in future.
One big change, he said, is that members would be disqualified from serving as an officer or on the executive board if they’ve been convicted of certain serious violent crimes and a record suspension has not been obtained.
Another change makes it an offence for any member or officer to publish via social media or online slanderous or libelous material against other members of the local.
Gallagher said people who represent a multi-million-dollar organization like the Operating Engineers should have a clean record.
“I’ve always believed that being a member of the Operating Engineers is a privilege,” he said, adding that when members join a union they also make a pledge as to how they’re going to treat each other.
With the advent of social media, Gallagher said it’s easier for people to express opinions on the Internet for everybody to see.
However, he advised members to be careful what they post because it could provide fodder for non-union groups and political parties.
On jurisdictional disputes (JDs), he said the union is presently embroiled in 14 JDs involving five trades, and the labour relations department is working to ensure Local 793 protects its jurisdiction.
Some contractors, he said, have opened up their books and are helping the union on the disputes.
On recruiting Aboriginals, Gallagher told the audience that the union has been working with companies like Aecon to get more people from First Nations communities into the trades.
“It’s the right thing for us and our contractors,” he said.
Presently, 10 Aboriginal communities in the Ring of Fire area are in the process of purchasing training from the Operating Engineers Training Institute of Ontario, he said, because they recognize the union offers the best training out there.
On communications, Gallagher told members that a new union website is nearing completion and, once finished, members will have greater access to information.
Once the website is finished, members will be able to see in real time what they’ve used in benefits and also pay their dues online at any time.
“Basically, we’ll have 24/7 coverage,” he said.
Also at the meeting, Gallagher and president Joe Redshaw presented a cheque to Local 793 operator Gerry Lukasiewicz of Sarnia who was injured in a construction site accident in 2012 and is now in a wheelchair.
A fundraiser was held for Gerry in Sarnia last December. The event raised $65,337 to help pay for the cost of a specially-equipped van for Gerry.
In presenting the cheque, Gallagher thanked Lukasiewicz for being such a strong member.
Lukasiewicz, meanwhile, thanked Gallagher and retired Southwestern Ontario area supervisor Bob McQueen and the union for the fundraiser.
“You can’t get a better union than this,” he said.