Category Archives: In The News

Passing of retired general secretary-treasurer Coutts

It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of former general secretary-treasurer, Norman “Budd” Coutts.

Well-loved and respected, brother Coutts was an integral part of our international union. He elevated the standing of operating engineers in Canada and his endless passion guided him through his leadership in the labour movement in Alberta, Canada, as well as in the United States.

Coutts initiated with IUOE Local 115 in British Columbia in 1957, working as an equipment operator before transferring into Local 955 in Edmonton four years later. He continued to operate equipment until he became a business agent and eventually business manager of Local 955 in 1971.

Under his leadership, he developed and implemented numerous programs including the local’s Training Fund in 1971 and its Pension Fund in 1972.

Coutts was elected international vice president in 1978, making him the youngest ever elected to the position, and later served as the union’s general secretary-treasurer, the second highest position at the international level.

He retired in November 2002.

Today, OE Local 955 extends a student scholarship award proudly bearing his name in honour of Coutts’ commitment to work, fellow operators and the union.

A friend to all of us, brother Coutts is irreplaceable and will not be forgotten by anyone whose lives he touched. May he rest in peace.

Building Trades Object to Decertification Push in Sault

Following is a letter to the editor from Pat Dillon, business manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario, that was published in Daily Commercial News on Feb. 14, 2018. Earlier, Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher had also written a letter to the editor on the same issue at https://www.iuoelocal793.org/letter-to-the-editor/.

As business manager of the Provincial Building Trades Council, I am deeply troubled by the ongoing push by Sault Ste. Marie City Council to pursue a change in the city’s status as a “construction employer.”

In my view, this move was made based on misinformation and without any substantive reasoning. If successful, such a move would consume huge legal costs shouldered by the citizens of that community, but more importantly, would denigrate the fair wages, job security, safety and training standards that construction workers in the Sault have fought to achieve over the course of generations.

The city is a construction employer because it had decided it was cheaper to hire carpenters and labourers directly and cut out the contractors those workers traditionally worked for. Those workers then decided to apply to certify the city so they would have the same wages and benefits as if they were working for their construction contractors, doing the very same work.

Thus, the City of Sault Ste. Marie became a construction employer. Sounds fair to me.

Now, the city is deciding, based on misinformation on potential savings, that it wants to try and avoid its legal obligations to the Sault Ste. Marie workers.

At a time when the general public is realizing that government can be a force for improving the quality of people’s work experience as evidenced by recent provincial labour law reforms and an increase to the minimum wage to help keep up with increased costs of living, the municipal government in the Sault appears to have chosen a path of weakening workers by increasing, instead of mitigating, their precariousness.

The real driving force behind city council’s decision is the pursuit of profits at the expense of worker training, wages and pensions.

If successful, a change in status would improve only one thing: the bottom line for certain contractors who don’t want to pay their workers fair wages and/or don’t want to compete with legitimate contractors on a level playing field.

Insofar as the City of Sault Ste. Marie chooses to perform construction work, it should remain designated as a construction employer.

Over the years, workers active on projects who built the community have chosen to be represented by the Carpenters’ and Labourers’ unions whose collective agreements include prevailing wages and benefits that were negotiated by those unions with contractors, including the City of Sault Ste. Marie, to support those workers and their families.

To all of a sudden have unscrupulous employers and their associations warn of “labour monopolies” and a “lack of competition” in the Sault’s construction industry in order to tear down obligations to workers, is nothing new. Such efforts demonstrate an eagerness by some contractors to test out what they can get away with.

Changing Sault Ste. Marie’s status as a construction employer to then be able to hire non-union contractors does nothing to save taxpayers’ money and everything to enhance those contractors’ profits.

This would not only negatively impact workers, but legitimate contractors as well; ones who do pay fair wages and who help pay for skills training which produces better health and safety outcomes.

Those like Ms. Karen Renkema, of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, who are pushing the decertification campaign, would have the citizens of Sault Ste. Marie believe that if the city becomes a non-construction employer, this would somehow spur increased construction employment among local residents. Yet, a recent electrical/mechanical contract at a major hospital project in Brockville, won by an employer from Ms. Renkema’s organization, will have that employer bringing crews from out of town to perform the work, thereby totally ignoring the qualified but unemployed local tradespeople.

Pursuing a change in the Sault’s status as a construction employer may unleash an ugly race-to-the-bottom in that city’s construction industry, and given Ontario’s strengthening economy, the citizens of this province are expecting shared prosperity, not more inequality.

I am hopeful that the city leadership in Sault Ste. Marie will take the broader interests of construction workers into account when looking into this matter, and not merely rely on a narrative that wants to deregulate local government tendering to improve profits over people.

Hamilton Retiree Featured in Newspaper Story

The Hamilton Spectator recently ran a story about longtime Local 793 member Elwood Cook of Hamilton. The 85-year-old retiree was a grader operator and worked on many projects in the area.

By Jeff Mahoney
The Hamilton Spectator

The long and winding road that leads to his door (Elwood Cook’s) will never disappear.

(Hey, I like that sentence. Someone oughta make it a song. McCartney maybe? Nah.)
The long and winding roads and the countless others that Elwood smoothed the way for in this city, might get potholed (they sure might — have you driven out there this month?); they might get patched up, diverted, rerouted, resurfaced and altered.

But they’ll always be there, leading figuratively to his door, because he dug, loaded, bulldozed and graded the surfaces of so many streets in Hamilton, even as they were being born. He was a big-machine operator here for 44 years. There’s his old union cap on the shelf in his basement.

Click here to continue reading.

Gallagher Urges Trades to Support OCOT Boards

Following is a story from a recent Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario convention that was published Oct. 25 in Daily Commercial News.

Gallagher, Cunningham urge Building Trades convention attendees to support OCOT boards

Construction stakeholders and new members of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT) Appointments Council Mike Gallagher and Ian Cunningham teamed up to urge delegates attending the recent convention of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario to get on board with OCOT and start nominating trades representatives to various boards.

Gallagher, business manager with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793, and Cunningham, president of the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA), said in their addresses to delegates there is an urgency to recruit new board members.

There are already openings on various boards and, in the next year, numerous terms will expire, requiring a major influx of new appointees.

“We need strong, committed, connected people to fill these vacant positions on the trade boards, the division boards and on the board of governors if the College is going to work for the best interests of the industry,” said Cunningham in an interview following his address to the delegates in Niagara Falls.

Gallagher explained in his interview, “There are some 40 vacancies that are coming up in the next year on the employer and the employee sides on the various trade boards at different levels, and people should be thinking who should be on those boards.

“And the Appointments Council, we have a pool of applications that are presented to us, and if it’s not a very big pool, we have to pick the best. So the idea is to encourage more applications so we have better options in terms of people that are there for the right reason.”

Click here for the full story.

Local 793/183 Agreement Subject of Article

The following article regarding the Mutual Co-operation Agreement between Local 793 and Local 183 was posted in Daily Commercial News.

LIUNA, IUOE locals reach deal on jurisdictional disputes

Two heavyweight construction unions have agreed to set aside years of differences, reaching an agreement to co-operate on a range of issues including establishing a mechanism to avoid jurisdictional disputes.

Local 793 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) and Labourers’ International Union of North America Local 183 (LIUNA) had negotiated since last fall until an understanding was reached. Their 2017 Mutual Co-operation Agreement was signed in Toronto on Jan. 27 by Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher and Local 183 business manager Jack Oliveira.

“Over the past few years we have been fighting each other rather than working collaboratively,” said Oliveira in a statement announcing the deal. “I am happy we were able to put that behind us, and that we are moving forward to level the playing field. This level of co-operation will be good for our members and for members of Local 793.”

Elements of the pact include a framework for resolving outstanding jurisdictional disputes and avoiding future ones, commitments to work together in organizing and collective agreement enforcement and an agreement on strategies for greater co-operation in utilities work as well as the sewer and watermain, roads and heavy engineering sectors in the Greater Toronto Area, parts of south central Ontario and parts of eastern Ontario.

Click here for rest of story

Campaign Launched to Promote Pipeline Work

IUOE locals across the country have launched a #Ready2Work campaign and website aimed at rallying Canadians to tell their MPs it’s time to build pipelines.

The campaign is funded by all of the IUOE locals in Canada that have members working in the pipeline industry.

Click here to visit the website.

“The name says it all,” IUOE Canadian director Lionel Railton said in a press release. “The pipeline proposals currently on the table are undergoing the most rigorous and comprehensive review process in Canadian history. They are ready to go, and we are ready to work.

“There’s no time to delay. It’s time to build. We are asking Canadians to join us in sending that message loud and clear.”

Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher said pipeline projects will create employment for thousands of Operating Engineers and other pipeline trades workers across the country and generate billions of dollars in tax revenues for the federal and provincial governments.

“I am asking that Local 793 members support this important initiative, as building pipelines like the Energy East project will create numerous jobs for our members.

“We have invested in a pipeline-training program at the OETIO in Morrisburg and the IUOE has signed a memorandum of understanding with TransCanada Corp. to build the entire Energy East project using only Operating Engineers, Labourers, Pipefitters and Teamsters.

“Pipeline construction is vital to the Canadian economy and is proven to be the safest and least greenhouse-gas-intensive-way of transporting oil.”

Assistant business manager Alex Law said Local 793 and other Operating Engineer locals across the country have been preparing their members for pipeline projects.

“We have the most skilled workers around and our Operating Engineers are ready, willing and able to build these pipeline projects in a safe and efficient manner,” he said. “There should be no further delays.

“Projects like Energy East will be built to the highest safety standards and the construction work will be done by well-trained and experienced Canadian unionized pipeline trades workers.”

The website notes that 99.999 per cent of crude oil moved by pipeline arrives safely at its destination because of Canadian Operating Engineers – a world-class workforce, trained through programs supported by millions of dollars in investment by IUOE locals.

“But our commitment to safety comes from much more than training,” notes IUOE Canadian director Railton. “Operating Engineers live in the same communities where these pipelines are built. We are your next-door neighbours – so when we build, we build right, we build safe, and we build to last.”

The #Ready2Work campaign is also highlighting the fact that pipelines are the most environmentally responsible choice for moving oil, as shipping it by rail or truck produces more greenhouse gas emissions.

The IUOE says the need for pipeline projects has never been stronger, as the collapse of oil prices has led to an economic crisis.

Canada lost more than 31,000 jobs in July of this year. In Alberta alone, the oil crisis made 2015 the worst year for job losses since 1982. Thousands of working class Canadians are out of work.

“This is a crisis – families can’t put food on the table,” said Railton. “Building pipelines will create thousands of good union jobs, right when Canadians need them most.

“No more delays – I ask Canadians to visit the website and tell their MP we are ready to work.”

Arbitrator Orders Employer to Develop Social Media Policy

In a recent arbitration decision, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) was found to have violated its obligation to provide a workplace which was safe and free of harassment by failing to take steps to protect its employees from social media harassment.

The TTC had created a Twitter account to receive and respond to customer service questions and concerns. The union representing TTC employees filed a grievance claiming that the Twitter account had become a public platform for people to abuse and harass employees. In support of its case, the union introduced into evidence hundreds of offensive, discriminatory and abusive tweets.

The arbitrator decided in favour of the union. By not properly addressing the offensive tweets, the TTC had failed to provide a workplace safe and free of harassment. In the course of his decision, the arbitrator specifically noted that the TTC did not have a social media policy and, as part of his remedy, ordered that the TTC develop one.

Local 793 recently developed a social media policy that was passed by the executive board and reviewed by the membership at the September general membership meeting. By taking proactive steps to address the challenges posed by social media, Local 793 is providing confidence to members by setting out rules for the safe use of social media while protecting its members from online harassment and abuse and ensuring the union is in compliance with Ontario law and the union’s constitution and by-laws.

Click here to review Local 793’s Social Media Policy.

IUOE GP Issues Statement on U.S. Election

The following statement was issued by IUOE General President James T. Callahan in response to the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president:

Last night, the Operating Engineers and organized labor sustained political losses throughout the country that will change the landscape for labor into the foreseeable future.

No one knows for certain what a Trump Administration will bring, but if he keeps his campaign promises, many of our sacred labor protections will be truly tested. Many union households voted against their economic futures, which is troubling at best. 

Now that the initial disappointment has been processed, it is time to do what every Operating Engineer in a leadership role has always done. We will stand strong, stand together, and continue to hold off attempts to erode away our collective bargaining rights. 

In the coming days, as we determine where these attacks will develop, rest assured that this administration, staff and the General Executive Board of our great organization is prepared to stand with you on the battlefield that lies before us, wherever our resources are needed.

God Bless you,
God Bless the Operating Engineers, and
God Bless America.