Category Archives: Union News

Campaign Launched by Unions Over BC Pipeline

A coalition has been formed and an online campaign has been launched to tell Kinder Morgan to keep its promise to British Columbians and build the Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline with unionized labour.

Business manager Mike Gallagher is encouraging Local 793 members to visit the web page set up by the B.C. Coalition for Safety Before Profits at www.safetybeforeprofits.ca and sign up to receive information on the issue.

“This is a very important issue for our Brother and Sisters in British Columbia, and those who work in the pipeline industry,” said Gallagher. “Pipelines built by experienced Canadian union workers will be safer than those built using unqualified or temporary foreign labour.”

At the website, you will find a link to a Facebook site, where stories will be showcased, and where you can like and share with friends, relatives and neighbours. The Coalition plans to add new stories as the campaign unfolds over time to build momentum. The Facebook site is at https://www.facebook.com/SafetyBeforeProfits/.

The Coalition was formed in response to a growing community of British Columbians who are concerned about Kinder Morgan’s level of commitment to safety.

Founding coalition members include the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Labourer’s International Union of North America, United Association Canada (Canadian Piping Trades), and Teamsters Canada.

Collectively, members of these unions have safely built the majority of pipelines in Canada.

However, in spite of efforts by the trades over many months to meet with Kinder Morgan, they have still not secured a commitment from the company to hire union trades for the pipeline. The trades are seeking a Project Labour Agreement for the pipeline project.

The question then is: Why would Kinder Morgan rely on anyone other than the most experienced workers to build its Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline?

The Coalition wants Kinder Morgan to hire the same union workers that built the original pipeline without incident.

It also wants people to join B.C.’s skilled, unionized workers in telling Kinder Morgan to keep its promise to B.C. and put safety before profits.

The campaign is built around the following key positions:

  • Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion project is a significant opportunity for British Columbians.
  • For B.C., that means ensuring all of the government’s five conditions are met and that B.C. gets a fair share of the economic benefits of the project.
  • For B.C.’s skilled trades workers and workforce of the future, that means not getting undercut by temporary foreign workers so Kinder Morgan can cut costs.
  • For Kinder Morgan, that means meeting B.C.’s five conditions and keeping its promise to put safety before profits.
  • If Kinder Morgan is willing to cut costs with unqualified cheap labour, then it is definitely putting profits before safety.

The Coalition notes that to grow and support the workforce of tomorrow, pipeline unions have invested $85 million in rigorous training to ensure well-paying middle class jobs for B.C. and for Canada.

New District Office in Thunder Bay

Local 793’s district office in Thunder Bay will be moving to a new location at 979 Alloy Drive, Suite 101 on Monday, April 3, 2017.

The current office location at 107 Johnson Ave. will be closed March 30 and 31 in preparation for the move.

Monthly district meetings will be held at the new location. The next district meeting is Thursday, April 6 at 8 p.m.

The office phone number remains the same at 807-344-7612.

Memorial Reception Scheduled for Brenda O’Sullivan

A memorial reception will be held Saturday, April 1, for Brenda O’Sullivan, clinical research manager of the mesothelioma research and screening program at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.

Brenda passed away Friday, March 17. She was involved in the mesothelioma research program since its inception and touched the lives of many Local 793 members who booked CT appointments.

The memorial reception will be held at 1 p.m. at Sunnybrook Estates McLean House, 2075 Bayview Ave. (enter at Armistice Drive at Sunnybrook Hospital).

Following is the obituary:

Brenda Kathleen O’Sullivan passed away peacefully at Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto, on Friday, March 17, 2017, in her 55th year after a courageous battle with an unexpected 3-month illness. Predeceased by her mother Margaret (Rita) Thompson (O’Sullivan). Beloved daughter of a devoted stepfather Richard (Rick) Thompson, who never knew what “step” meant. She will be greatly missed by her brother Sean O’Sullivan, sister-in-law Lydia Evans, niece and nephew Lauren and Evan, all of Vancouver, as well as her brother Michael O’Sullivan and sister-in-law Efi Komninou of Athens, Greece and by her sister Maureen McGregor, nephews and nieces Ryan, Michael, Alex, Paige, Madison and Riley. She will also be sadly missed by her best friend Andrea Ebidia.

We all will remember Brenda’s smile and wicked sense of humour and her gestures of kindness to all. Her joys in life included Bandit her loyal four-legged companion of eight years, all things fine in life – food, wine, travel and good friends. She was highly committed to her work at the Princess Margaret Hospital, managing the asbestos and mesothelioma clinics where she made everyone feel at ease. The family would like to thank Dr. Marc De Perrot for all of his support and the nurses, doctors and extended team at Sunnybrook Hospital for their fine care. Brenda’s cremated remains will rest alongside her mother’s casket in Holy Cross Cemetery, Thornhill. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Mesothelioma Research Fund in honour of Brenda O’Sullivan, Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, 610 University Ave., Toronto, M5G 2M9, 416-946-6560, www.thepmcf.ca 

See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/thestar/obituary.aspx?n=brenda-osullivan&pid=184677668#sthash.qtQdEPKz.dpuf.

Health Spending Account Added to Benefits Plan

A significant improvement is being made to Local 793’s life and health benefits plan.

Business manager Mike Gallagher announced at the union’s general membership meeting March 26 in Oakville that all active and retired members eligible under the plan will soon have a special health spending account.

The change goes into effect April 1, 2017.

A lump sum of $400 will be deposited annually into the health spending accounts of members.

Members will be able to use the funds to top-up their benefits under the current plan.

If a member does not use the funds one year, the amount rolls over to the following year.

Members can accumulate up to a maximum of $800 in the health spending account.

“This is a significant benefit plan improvement that we’ve brought in,” Gallagher said at the general membership meeting. “I hope this is something that will make life just a little bit easier for you.”

Gallagher said funds in the health spending account, for example, could be used to top-up a member’s coverage for chiropractic work or eyeglasses or anything currently covered by the benefits plan.

He said benefit plan trustees decided to add the health spending account for members because the life and health benefits fund is in great shape, with $75 million in reserves.

Gallagher said trustees will continue to look for ways to make the Local 793 plan the leading benefit plan amongst the trades.

Union is in Very Good Shape: Gallagher

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:

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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.

Union Pension Plan Surpasses $2.5 Billion

2016 was a good year for the Local 793 pension plan, business manager Mike Gallagher said in remarks at a union general membership meeting March 26 in Oakville.

The plan returned 10.7 per cent last year, well above the benchmark of 7.7 per cent, he noted.

Gallagher said the plan is successful because the labour and management trustees have made sure that the investments are sound.

“We’re getting good returns because the asset allocation structure is good.”

Gallagher said assets of the union’s pension plan are now above $2.5 billion and the plan is 102 per cent funded on a going-concern basis, up from 97 per cent a year ago.

The fund had a surplus of $65 million as of Dec. 31.

Expansion Plans Moving Ahead

Plans to expand the union’s banquet hall and build a student residence at the head office property in Oakville are moving ahead.

Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher reported at a general membership meeting of the union March 26 that the executive board has set a budget of $25 million for both projects.

He assured members that the projects will be completed without the union incurring any debt.

To fund the project, the union will take $12.5 million from its reserves and the rest will come from operating capital.

“I had promised during the last election that we would be prudent in expanding the banquet hall and building the new student residence and that the local would not be at any risk. I plan to deliver on that promise. We will enhance this property and make it more valuable for our members and we will do it without incurring any debt whatsoever.”

Gallagher said the banquet hall expansion will be started first, followed by construction of the student residence.

Construction on the banquet hall will begin early next year. The hall will be expanded to the east.

The new banquet hall will be about 70 per cent larger.

Gallagher said the union is seeking a zoning change for the student residence from the Town of Oakville.

The residence will have 42 rooms, a gym and a lounge. It will be built to the north of the existing training centre and incorporate elements of the former Elliott Hotel in Toronto, where the founding fathers of Local 793 met in 1919 to draft a letter requesting a charter for the union.

Gallagher noted the union recently built a 70-room residence at the OETIO in Morrisburg and did it all out of operating capital.

He said he will be looking for provincial and federal funding to help offset some of the cost of the projects.

At the meeting, Gallagher asked members to support the executive board decision to expand the banquet hall and build the residence because it benefits all members around the province and it’s the right thing to do.

Retired Local 793 member Mike Quinn moved a motion to support the executive board “so they have our total, uncommitted support.”

The motion passed unanimously.

Joe Kennedy Granted Honorary Lifetime Membership

Retired Local 793 business manager Joe Kennedy has been granted honorary lifetime membership in the union.

The union’s insurance committee voted on the honour March 24 and business manager Mike Gallagher made the announcement at a special e-board meeting in Oakville the next day.

Kennedy attended the e-board meeting with his grandson, Simon.

“It’s a great privilege to announce that the insurance committee has unanimously afforded you this great honour of being made an honorary lifetime member of Local 793,” Gallagher said at the meeting.

“I certainly believe Joe is deserving of this honour. He built a pretty important foundation for us to build on. This is the right thing for us to do.”

Gallagher had recommended in a letter to the insurance committee that Kennedy be approved.

Kennedy was at the helm of the union for 18 years. He was elected business manager of the local in 1974 and held the post until his retirement in 1992.

A crane operator by trade, Kennedy joined the union while working in Mattawa, Ont. with his father. He used to fire up the boilers for his father’s steam-powered crane.

Kennedy was initiated Oct. 17, 1951 and is a 66-year member of Local 793.

As an operator, he worked on projects across Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, including the Angus MacDonald Bridge in Halifax, the Burlington Skyway, the mines of Elliot Lake and the Bruce Generating Station. He was frequently appointed union steward on many of the jobs.

At the e-board meeting, Gallagher said he learned from Kennedy what it takes to be a good leader and business manager.

He also noted that Kennedy oversaw the introduction of Local 793’s pension and life and health benefits plans and it was through his persistent efforts that the long-sought-after compulsory indentured apprenticeship for the trade of hoisting engineer became reality.

“What we have as far as our pension was started by Joe,” said Gallagher. “Before Joe Kennedy there was no mandatory training for the hoisting trade and it was because of him that came about.”