I trust everyone had a safe and sunny summer. It’s mid October and the great weather is still trying to hang on. I know that many of our members had the opportunity to have a fairly busy year work-wise, either locally or on travel card. The hardest hit were those in the industrial sector, particularly the steamfitter and welder apprentices. Unfortunately this sector will remain slow for the winter right across the country.
Looking ahead, we have a bright future in the North. The commercial and institutional sectors have been and will continue to be a strong backbone for our workforce. The Sioux Lookout hospital is nearing completion along with various plumbing and heating jobs in Fort Frances, Red Lake, Dryden and Geraldton to name a few spots in our jurisdiction. Locally, new work at the hospital, waterfront, Con-college, senior’s homes and retail stores are underway. Next year will bring the start of the new courthouse, more senior’s homes, city library and social services building to name a few. Because most of these building’s are LEED’s certified, the workload for our member’s is substantionally increased.
The industrial sector is setting up to be very busy once things get going. The Lower Mattagami Dam project north of Kapuskasing is in the very early stages. As time moves forward, we will be on site reaping the benefits of a long term project with plenty of overtime. The Provincial gov’t has given the go ahead for the Atikokan generating station to be converted to biofuel with natural gas back-up. The planning is still underway but it is anticipated to start next year. We do have work presently in the Musselwhite and Gold-Corp gold mines with more to come. We all hear the news about other mining projects and hope that they go ahead at the proper times. In the meantime, smaller jobs are popping up, Dryden is going ahead with a small turbine in the paper mill, a local popsicle stick factory will be putting in a new steam system and Venshore Mechanical’s new fabrication facility is up and running. We also had member’s in Fort Frances all summer working on a new gas distribution system for the town, hopefully more of that to follow.
This year was very busy with the negotiation of 4 collective agreement’s. We have ratified the ICI, EPSCA, pipeline distribution and mainline pipeline. We still have to do the National Fab-shop agreement which expires on December 31, 2010. As soon as the wording has all been re-done, the new agreements will be updated under the ” documentation” link on our website home page.
We made significant gains in our ICI agreement with regards to room and board and travel provisions. We could not have achieved this without the support of our sister locals in Ontario. We thank them again for their support. The EPSCA sector was a tough set of negotiations. Although we did not achieve what we wanted in board and travel, we signed a good agreement for the Lower Mattagami project. The EPSCA agreement is also good for 5 years, meaning that all hydro work will be done Union.
As you are aware, we changed our benefit administrator as of April 1 of this year. We have achieved cost savings along with superior service since joining the Union Benefits group. Going forward, more cost savings are anticipated which will free up more money to cover the ever increasing costs of health benefits. Of course, we will be looking at benefit improvements whenever possible. You can download benefit forms at www.unionbenefits.ca or call them at 1-800-265-2568. We will also soon be getting a link to their website and make the appropriate changes to our benefit booklet.
In closing, I would like to thank the members who attended our special called meeting with regards to the breakdown of our recent wage increases. Our local was way behind our sister locals in pension contribution amounts and tough decisions had to be made. The economic disasters of this decade have left many with a sour taste towards pensions and investments in general. We must look at the big picture, only 35% of working Canadian’s have a private pension plan to help them retire with dignity. Like all plans, the market downturns have wreaked havoc and companies must invest more money to keep their plans funded. I explained to the membership that our plan is not in a panic mode, but that we could be pro-active and put some money toward’s fund maintenance. What this means is that for the next 3 wage increases, .50 cents per increase would go towards the funding of the plan. If the market turns around in the future and our actuary gives the go-ahead, then we “might” be able to retroactively award an increase to those of you who contributed those amounts. This is no different than any private company having to put in extra amounts to fund their plan. Once again, this is a pro-active move, one that the experts told us you would not move on. I applaud the membership, after discussion they voted 95% in favour of the motion. I also thank the membership for accepting a small increase in our field dues structure. We have a fine building, but it is showing signs of it’s age and maintenance work will be required in the future. Things like new boilers, windows and parking lot repairs all cost money. Once again, the membership voted 95% in favour of increasing field dues by .25% per increase. This will put us in good shape when the time comes to keep our building in top shape. This amount will still leave us behind the other northern locals in their dues structure.
Finally, I would ask you to make every effort to attend our monthly Union meetings. The meetings are held on the 4th Monday at 8:00 pm. For those of you who have forgotten, we are at 969 Alloy Drive.