Welcome to the BTA Blog. We invite your feedback.
Born and raised here in Edmonton, I started my career in communications as a teacher with Edmonton Public Schools. While there, I began my MBA, which I completed while working as a School Jurisdiction Liaison for central and southern Alberta with Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan. Following that, I obtained a similar role with Alberta Pensions Services Corporation, where I was responsible for the provincial Employer Education program as well as the Employer Compliance program, helping participating employers ensure that all members eligible for pension benefits received the correct benefit at the correct time. I then joined Alberta Urban Municipalities Association as the Director of Client Development, continuing to grow as a communications and relationship management professional.
I am proud to be able to work on behalf of the BTA and all her members as the Media and Public Relations Manager as I have always had a deep belief in community and a passion for engagement and this organization clearly believes in the same thing. I have an appreciation for everything that the labour movement has been able to accomplish so far and am excited to be working with you all as we move forward.
When I am not working on promoting the BTA, I conduct leadership development workshops and volunteer with Project Adult Literacy Society (PALS) teaching math to adult students specifically with the goal of helping them pass the provincial trade entrance exam so they can then get to work in the trades and make a better life for themselves.
Double-breasting happens – every tradesperson knows it does. And every tradesperson knows it is unfair and should be eliminated. However, there are some other things that tradespeople “know” about double-breasting that we want to help clear up.
What is double-breasting?
Double-breasting occurs when an employer operates a union wing and a non-union wing, although the arrangement is not typically as clear as that. The purpose of double-breasting is to allow an employer to circumvent the choice of employees to unionize by transferring the work that they would typically do to the non-union group, in order to deny work to the employees who chose to be represented by a union. Usually the employer will operate as a management group and that group will then hire the non-union wing on a contract basis, which makes it appear as though the non-union entity is not technically part of the employer.
Why is it allowed?
Double-breasting is not actually allowed in legislation. The Labour Code has something called a common employer provision which was created to ensure that “established bargaining rights are not eliminated because of a corporate reorganization or split” (http://www.alrb.gov.ab.ca/procedure/26(f).pdf). This means that companies cannot create separate groups within their structure to limit the ability of its employees to organize or to receive protection from unions. Companies are certainly allowed to create different divisions as required for business purposes, but they are not supposed to end up creating union and non-union divisions that do the same work.
Where does it happen?
Under the Code, every industry except construction has the ability to actively enforce this legislation, which is why double-breasting really only seems to appear in our industry. The Code relating to the construction industry places far more onus on the union to request a common employer declaration, which is a finding by the Labour Board that two or more entities operate under common control and direction, which would require the employer to eliminate non-unionized operations. The employer has the ability to say that cooperating with the review would cause a hardship and that the union is merely “going on a fishing expedition”, and therefore not provide the information needed to substantiate the claim by the union.
What can be done about it?
Having the legislation changed to place the onus on employers to provide records to prove the need for separate divisions would bring the construction industry in line with every other industry in Alberta and would be a good start. This is one of the recommendations that the BTA has made to the government under the current Labour Code review. See the full submission on our home page. You can get involved too. Read the submission and talk to your MLA to let them know how important this is to you. Visit www.enddoublebreasting.com and sign up to have a letter sent on your behalf to your MLA. The more people we can get involved in the conversation, the more the government will have to listen, so add your voice!
Comments? Questions? Connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The government has opened up the Labour Relations Code review to engage Albertans. The Building Trades of Alberta, along with other labour groups including the AFL, AUPE and UFCW have taken the lead in providing the government with strong direction regarding what needs to be done to the Code in order to make it fair, current and more in line with the legislation found across Canada. Have a look at the BTA submission to the government on our home page at www.bta.ca.
In response, many groups who support non-union jobsites are trying to coordinate efforts to get their message to the government. They have been saying that the legislation as it currently exists is fair and balanced and any changes to it would only serve to upset that balance. They say that the current structure of the labour legislation is creating a stable investing environment that encourages businesses to come to Alberta; that it contributes to the Alberta Advantage. They say that with everything that the government has to deal with, now is not the time to open up legislation and review and update it.
Let’s have a look at the arguments that the other side is trying to use when they fight changes to the Code and see why they don’t hold water.
First, the current legislation is anything but fair and balanced. The power and the choice is in the hands of the employer. Interestingly, the same groups that are arguing that the Code is fair and balanced argued the opposite under the previous government! But now that the government is willing to have a look at the Code and to level the playing field, they claim Code needs no changes. It is easy to see that they are not interested in fair – they are looking to maintain the advantages they have had over workers for years. The BTA has always fought for the rights of workers, and we are finally in a position to have a government that will consult with us.
The second argument that opponents to opening up the Labour Code use is to claim that the current laws create a favourable, stable investment environment. Alberta has always been a resource-rich province which encourages national and international investment, but the type of investment that an economy attracts makes a difference too. Countries with abhorrent human rights practices and no safety or workers’ rights unfortunately draw a lot of investment due to the cheap labour and lack of regulation. Obviously no-one is advocating for that in Alberta, but if we don’t ensure that the workers, the people who live in Alberta and help to build the province, receive appropriate protection and rights under the Labour Code, then we are headed down that road.
Finally, opponents of updating the Labour Code say that now is not the best time to take on this project. When would be the best time? When oil is back over $100/barrel? When then existing legislation has helped marginalize unions by maintaining the balance of power in favour of employers? Review of legislation is kind of like having kids: there is never a good time to do it and by the time you think it is a good time, it’s too late.
The best time to look at labour laws and finds ways to improve the protections available to workers will always be RIGHT NOW.
The fact of the matter is that Alberta has some of the oldest labour laws in the country. The laws were created by an anti-labour government to assist employers. The BTA is working to try to get the laws changed and to create an even playing field. Visit our home page to review the submission that the BTA sent in to the government regarding the changes needed for the Labour Relations Code to truly be fair.
How can you get involved? Help make the changes recommended in our submission a reality by connecting with your MLA and letting them know how you feel. At a minimum, visit www.enddoublebreasting.com and add your name to the list of concerned Albertans. By adding your name to the list, a letter will be sent to your MLA on your behalf, asking him or her to support legislation which will help end the practice of double-breasting.
Comments? Questions? Let us know at email@example.com
Some of you may have seen that the Supreme Court of Canada, on February 2, ruled against Merit Contractors on a case involving union membership at Manitoba Hydro. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here.
This was a positive note for organized labour, to see that the courts were willing not only to protect the rights of workers and but to protect the role of the union in providing that protection and ensuring that workers are all treated equitably. In fact, the courts felt so strongly that what Merit was arguing did not serve the public interest that Merit was forced to pay all costs, including those incurred by Manitoba Hydro and the unions involved (Insulators, Electricians and Operating Engineers).
Merit had been fighting this case for the last five years, at the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, Manitoba Court of Appeal and finally, at the Supreme Court of Canada.
From its very beginning, Merit Contractors has functioned to try to weaken unions and remove them from the construction industry altogether, and one of their main focuses is on getting labour legislation changed in order to remove protections for workers. They tried this in Manitoba and failed. They attacked the legislation in Nova Scotia in 2014. They tried to bully the Alberta Government into making changes to their programming by posting an open letter to the Premier last year.
We need to remember that we do not work in a vacuum. While the unionized building trades works to keep members employed, safe and well-trained, groups like Merit are working to destroy what our Locals have worked to build. We need to ensure that our government knows we are here and we are strong. If you haven’t contacted your MLA yet and shared your thoughts, please do so. Click here to look up your MLA if you are not sure who they are. If you don’t know what to talk about, the BTA can help. We built a policy book that lays out the things we are fighting for and we are always looking for ways to add your voice to ours to ensure we get heard.
Together we are strong and together we can help ensure a prosperous tomorrow.
Regardless how you feel about the political goings-on in America these days, and no matter what you think about Donald Trump as a leader, he has already done a few things in office that can potentially give those of us in the trades some hope.
First, he approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The Keystone XL pipeline will help Alberta get more of our product to market and provide many construction jobs while the pipeline, which starts in Hardisty, Alberta is being built.
Second, he pulled America out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The agreement took seven years to negotiate, and with America leaving the agreement, the TPP cannot be ratified. The agreement was slated to be the largest free-trade agreement in history, reducing or eliminating many tariffs and other barriers to trade. However, it also threatened the Canadian skilled labour force as it would allow foreign companies working in Canada to bring in workers from their country and would not require them to ensure that Canadian workers with the same qualifications be given the first opportunity for employment.
Finally, Trump met with North America Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey and other union leaders to hear their thoughts on what needs to be done to “create jobs, re-build America’s infrastructure, further develop and harness America’s abundant energy resources, raise the wages of working-class Americans, and move people off of public assistance and into the American middle class”.
All three of these actions have the potential to benefit skilled trades workers, not just in America but here at home, as well.
What do you think? Could President Donald Trump be good for the unionized trades? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, here we are in a brand new year. An opportunity to look ahead, to move forward, to forge a path. But before we do that, maybe we should clear the air a little regarding 2016.
There seem to be two camps regarding the year we just closed out: either it was a pretty good year, or it was an awful year. There are certainly arguments for each. Here are just a few of the ones I found online:
and my personal favourite, from everyone’s favourite Canadian astronaut: Chris Hadfield Reminds Us of All the Good Things That Happened in 2016.
Add to that the fire in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and then the recent 18-month high in the price of oil and approval of two pipelines out of Alberta, and it’s hard to decide overall what kind of year 2016 was. On a personal level, it’s much easier to determine, and I sincerely hope that you had more good than bad last year.
However, it’s now 2017 and it is time to look forward. Make a decision to have a positive impact on the people around you – get involved. Help others. Show people what it means to be kind and supportive – to treat people with respect. Take some time to invest in yourself. Try something new.
Have a look at this article: One Memorable Day, Once a Month. It suggests that we try taking one day a month to commit 100% to something. Anything. And to use that to grow. I’m going to try it and so are several of my friends. Why don’t you, too? It’s like a resolution, but better, because it’s only one day a month – totally doable.
Let me know what you think. Share what your plans are for 2017. What are you going to commit to?
Christmas is only 5 days away! For those of us who celebrate it, that means we don’t have a lot of time left to prepare for the big day. For me, that means I have to get started.
Decorations, gifts, food; all of the usual stuff that goes with the modern Christmas event needs to be sourced, but there is more to it than that. While we are working to ensure our homes are decked out to the level we (and our kids) like, and while we are ensuring we prepare the perfect meal and handing out the perfect gifts, as best we can, now is a good time to consider where we are getting our supplies too.
With a little bit of research, you can feel good not just about what you are purchasing, but where you are buying from. The union movement was built on equality and fair treatment for all workers. Not all stores and not all producers feel the same way. Some refuse pay a living wage to their employees, some do not provide benefits to their staff. Some producers exploit their workers with long hours, minimal pay, or unbelievably, with child labour! In 2016!
Having said that, it is not always possible or practical for you to only buy products created by union hands or to avoid companies that actively fight organized labour. What matters is that we are making informed decisions regarding how and when we spend our money. Put some thought into where you spend your money because each dollar you spend tells the company that you support the way they do business. Choose carefully how you spend your money. And that can help everyone have a good Christmas.
Do you have any comments or questions? Maybe you know of some great labour-friendly products or places to shop that you would like to share. Let us know.
Until then, have a great holiday season and a safe and happy New Year.
Last week was a big week – important things happened that I hope you were able to take some time and think about.
First, last Friday was Remembrance Day. The day once a year where we, as a nation, pause to remember the sacrifices of the men and women who served our country in the military. This matters, because the rights and freedoms that these people fought and died to protect are the rights and freedoms that we have today, including freedom from oppression, freedom of thought, speech and association, and the right to essentially live as we want to live. This is no small matter, as there are people all over the world who do not have these rights and freedoms, nor do they have anyone fighting to get it for them.
Unions fight for your rights as well. It is because of the close association between the military and unions that the BTA partners with Helmets to Hardhats, a national organization that works with the unionized building trades to help Canadians transitioning from their work in the military to working in the civilian world, by helping them use the skills they learned serving our country and apply them to work in the trades, with the support of locals across Canada. Learn more at helmetstohardhats.ca or talk to your local and help get the word out – there are always more people that we can help.
Second, there was an election last week too (you may have heard). Why does that matter here? It matters because the men who will be the new President and Vice-President of America actively work against unions. The first spent half a million dollars recently fighting certification at his property in Las Vegas, and refused to bargain after certification was granted. The second, while governor of Indiana, fought for right-to-work legislation, which is essentially anti-union and has been shown to decrease the average worker’s wage and reduce the overall output of the economy. Having two anti-union leaders running the country south of the border can make things more difficult for unionized labour everywhere.
Get involved! If we, as the unionized building trades are to have any chance of protecting what we have worked to build, or hope to build in the future, our members voices need to be heard. Not with protests and marches – those are a last resort. We need to get involved politically. Join boards and committees. Run for office locally, regionally, provincially, on your school board –anywhere decisions about our future are being made. You can bet our competition is doing it, and if we don’t make sure the union voice is heard, then everything we are fighting for, everything our forbearers fought for will be lost.
It can be hard to look forward when we are struggling to hold on to what we have right now, but that is exactly what we need to do. We need, as a group, to get into positions which can impact the environment in which we operate for years to come. We have never had a government so willing to let us in and have a say, and we are not likely to have this opportunity for much longer, so find out how you can invest some of your time, your energy and your spirit to help ensure that our apprentices have work to go to and that the unionized building trades remain a powerful and reliable force for building our province.
Last month, the BTA hosted our annual conference. This year, the theme was “Re-Defining Our Workplace: The Diversification of our People, Resources and Economy”. We had guests and speakers from across the country come to talk about the importance of diversification and the importance of participating in, or even leading, the diversification of our industry. For all the details, as well as downloadable copies of many of the presentations, visit here (http://bta.ca/index.php/news/38-2016-bta-conference-highlights).
As our industry grapples with reduced prices for our products and limited availability for work, it is more essential than ever to ensure that we are as nimble and as prepared as possible for whatever the future may hold.
That means not just responding to opportunities as they come up, but creating those opportunities and showing everyone how it is done, as demonstrated by our brothers who presented on sustainable and renewable energy initiatives.
That means taking the time that the current situation offers to re-evaluate how we are getting the work done, focusing on ways to improve the work we do, whether through additional training or paying closer attention to the mentoring that we provide and that our apprentices should expect.
That means examining how we support and lift each other up, whether through increased attention to safety and mental health or by committing to providing respectful workplaces for all current and future brothers and sisters.
Information on how your brothers and sisters are taking advantage of the opportunities that come with diversification is found in the conference summary, but that isn’t the only place to look. Look around where you are now, talk to your local, get involved – help lead the way.
Union labour does good work – we all know that. Our members receive world-class training, are committed to the development of their craft and actively work to protect their brothers and sisters, both on and off the worksite. But one thing that often gets overlooked when considering the good that union labour does is the contribution to Alberta communities and citizens through our Building Trades of Alberta Charitable Foundation.
Over the last fifteen years, the Charitable Foundation has donated over six million dollars to worthwhile charities across the province, including Prostate Cancer Canada, the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation of Canada, the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation (including being the lead sponsor of the Courage Centre – one of the most technologically advanced rehabilitation and research centres in Canada [http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/Facilities/GRH/page105.asp]), and STARS Air Ambulance, just to name a few. To have a look at some of the other groups that the Charitable Foundation helps, visit here.
Now, where does the Charitable Foundation get the money to be able to do all the good that it does? All proceeds are raised voluntarily by members. Proceeds from the following four annual events provide some of the funding for the charitable activity that the Foundation undertakes:
- · annual golf tournament at the Edmonton Garrison Memorial Golf & Curling Club
- · annual curling bonspiel at the Edmonton Garrison Memorial Golf & Curling Club
- · annual Do It for Dads fun run at Sir Wilfred Laurier Park to raise money for Prostate Cancer Canada
- · annual Charitable Foundation events at the BTA Conference
Without question, however, the most popular way that the Charitable Foundation raises money is with our “Brass Pools” at Shell Scotford and at North West Redwater Refinery. These licensed raffles are held every two weeks and members buy tickets for a chance at taking home 70% of the total pot. The remaining 30% goes to the Charitable Foundation to be used to support various charities around Alberta.
Just to give you an idea of how generous BTA members are (and how popular the brass pools are), in 2015, almost $400,000 was awarded in prize money last year!
All of this work is on top of the truly awesome amount of community giving that each of our locals do, as well as the swelling of support when specific circumstances arise, like the wildfire in Wood Buffalo.
Long story short: anyone would be hard-pressed to find a group of people who care more about their communities and who work harder to support their brothers and sisters, and I, for one, am very proud to be associated with all of you.
Any comments about this blog or the charitable work that the BTA and our affiliate locals do, please contact us at email@example.com.
Training and education are critical to the success of the Building Trades. Did you know that the affiliated Locals of the BTA have invested over half a billion dollars in Alberta in the last ten years for training and education? $200 million for facilities and infrastructure and $300 million in program development and delivery.
So how does all that training and education take place? Many union locals have what are called “Training Trust Funds” (TTFs). These TTFs operate separately from the local itself and are controlled by a board of trustees, including representatives from the union as well as representatives from employers / industry. This type of joint labour / management oversight is critical to ensure that the skills that union members are developing are at the leading edge of industry demand.
Why do unions take responsibility for training? Why don’t tradespeople just go to NAIT/SAIT or another vocational school to learn and develop their journeyman skills? First, it’s important to differentiate between apprentice training and journeyman upgrading. While some unions provide apprentice training, most work in partnership with technical schools such as NAIT or SAIT. TTFs generally focus on journeyman upgrading (although there are exceptions), helping ensure that the members of the union are trained in the latest developments and advanced technology, contributing to the “skilled trades advantage” that the BTA works so hard to promote.
Additionally, joint labour / management oversight such as TTF reinforces the necessary partnership between employers and unions, resulting in more and better work opportunities for the membership. Better trained tradespeople have better access to better jobs.
How are they funded? TTFs are typically funded by cents per hour contributions determined by the collective agreement. You will see this on your pay stub, and be glad that the investment in you is being made - world class training facilities help to create one of the most respected workforces in the world. The money is submitted to the TTF which uses the money to fund the administration and training for Local members, enabling you to enhance their skills and to become more valued tradespeople.
Who benefits? Ultimately, you, as a member who participates in training opportunities created by your TTF will see the greatest benefit. You can gain valuable skills which make you more attractive as a skilled tradesperson and more effective on the worksite. Upgrading your skills is your responsibility as a tradesperson and a Union member. It benefits you directly by increasing your value, but also puts you in a position to provide valuable mentoring to less experienced members, ensuring the future success of your local.
Additionally, you have the opportunity to pursue project management training, supervisory training, and steward training, among other options, should you wish grow your career beyond the tools and take on leadership roles on the worksite or within your local, or even further.
If you haven’t taken the time to explore all the opportunities that are available to you, many locals provide training opportunities, so do some investigation – check out your Local’s website and invest in yourself. Make sure that you are taking advantage of the education and supports that exist. Participate in training programs, share what you have learned with others, and help lead your Local successfully into the future. The more education and training that takes place, the stronger we all are.
Do you have any comments for me? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, the legislature has adjourned for the summer, meaning the MLAs are working from their constituency offices for the next four months or so. This presents a great opportunity for all of us. The job of the MLA is to listen to their constituents and to take action based on what they hear. Now is the time for us all to ensure that they hear our message!
On our website, we have some resources to help you get involved and take part in helping to direct the course of action that our provincial government will take. The most important resource for you that we can offer is our Policies and Positions book (available to view or download here) which outlines the point of view that the Building Trades of Alberta takes on a variety of issues which affect our current and future members. Take a moment to review it and familiarize yourself with it. We will be sending this same book to every MLA to ensure that they have easy access to our perspective as well.
Here is the part where you come in: connect with your MLA and talk with them about something in the book that really matters to you. If you aren’t sure who your MLA is, click here and find your riding. The more BTA members do this, the stronger our voice will be.
Getting involved, demonstrating leadership and modeling strong union membership is what will help ensure our success into the future. Showing the younger members what it means to be an engaged, positive force in your Local is how you can help make sure that your Local will continue to thrive once you are off the tools and hanging around swapping stories about how tough it was when you came up.
As the saying goes, Unions are like gyms, it’s not enough to have a membership. If you want to see real results, you have to put in some effort.
Let us know how you are getting involved and leading the way at email@example.com.
The beast continues to burn. After nearly a month of consuming everything in its path, the wildfire that attacked Fort McMurray and the surrounding communities, displacing tens of thousands of Albertans as well as visitors, and destroying human and animal homes alike continues its march across northern Alberta and into Saskatchewan. As of 1430 on May 24, the fire covers 522,892 hectares, including 2,496 hectares in Saskatchewan. That’s as big as nearly eight Edmontons.
Nearly 2,000 firefighters, along with 88 helicopters, 253 pieces of heavy equipment and 25 air tankers are currently battling the fire. While we understand a voluntary phased re-entry to Fort McMurray is forthcoming, Fort McMurray, Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates, Fort McMurray First Nation and Fort McKay First Nation remain under a mandatory evacuation order. For up-to-date info, click here. The Red Cross is working night and day to support the people affected by the wildfire and is coordinating the efforts of people who are looking to help.
All of this effort is critical in dealing with the immediate needs of the people displaced by this disaster. But we all know that the effects of this terrible event will last for years. Once the flames are finally extinguished and the firefighters can rest is when the work for the rest of us begins. That’s why the Building Trades of Alberta is creating a volunteer registry for when the time comes to rebuild Fort McMurray and her neighbouring communities. Fort McMurray has, over the years, been referred to as a “Union Town”. This is our opportunity to show Fort Mac what this towns unions look like, by standing up, standing together and working to rebuild this proud community.
The volunteer registry will form the core of manual support that the BTA and affiliated unions provide to communities affected by disasters like the one that is currently in progress, in addition to the millions of dollars collected and donated to the Red Cross by our members and Building Trades affiliates across Canada.
Do you want to pitch in when the time comes? Let us know. Please provide your name, Local and trade, along with how you think you would be able to help to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add you name to the list of men and women that Alberta can count on to stand up when they are needed. As organizing efforts progress, we will be sure to keep you in the loop.
A lot of people are having a terrible week this week. People are losing their homes, their livelihoods and their possessions in the wildfires that are surrounding and engulfing Fort McMurray and the neighbouring communities. And the fire is not easing up – in fact, it appears to be getting stronger, so we can be sure that more will be lost. As of the time of this writing, there has been no loss of life due to the fire, and we can all pray that remains the case.
Devastating as events like this are, and as traumatizing as they can be to the people who are forced to deal with the viciousness of Mother Nature, events like this also have a galvanizing effect on the people of our province. Within minutes of notification of the wildfire approaching civilization, people were preparing and mobilizing; getting ready to help those in need. Just like when Slave Lake burned in 2011, and when southern Alberta flooded in 2013, Albertans banded together to help.
Regardless anyone’s political beliefs, ethnicity, sexuality, or favourite tv show, Albertans support Albertans.
What are you doing to help out? Are you opening your home to people left homeless? Are you buying supplies to donate to the relief centres set up all over the province? Are you planning to participate in the rebuilding of the city and neighbouring communities? Are you donating money to the Red Cross or some other group that is working to support people affected by this disaster?
The BTA and our 75,000 members are getting involved. Some of our Locals have even gotten support from the national offices of their union, along with all their sister Locals across the country. We are helping out in every way mentioned above, at the individual level, the Local level, the provincial level and country-wide.
Union members support each other and they support and protect the communities in which they live. Fort McMurray is a Union Town. Unions helped build the town and the Unions are stepping up to ensure that the pain, devastation and fear felt by people from Fort McMurray and their families is minimized. Unions will help build the town of Fort McMurray again.
Contact us at email@example.com and tell us how you are supporting your fellow Albertans. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter and follow your Local on social media, to see how you can get involved, help out and show the power of working together.
Working hard to create an environment in which BTA members can find and keep good, safe work, the Building Trades of Alberta took a big step forward on Tuesday when we hosted an Industry Reception for industry leaders, union leaders and government leaders, including the Premier herself!
All told, nearly 120 people attended, including 22 MLAs, 14 Ministers (including Labour, Energy, Advanced Education and Economic Development and Trade, as well as 16 other government representatives such as Deputy Ministers, Assistant Deputy Ministers and Chiefs of Staff. 30 presidents, CEOs / COOs and other senior leadership and government and labour relations professionals from organizations like Syncrude, Suncor, Enbridge, Capital Power, Keyera, NOVA Chemicals, Stantec, Shell, TransAlta, TransCanada and Northwest Refining also attended.
Trade Winds to Success, our proud partner working to help aboriginal youth explore and engage in the trades, along with the Resource Diversification Council were present, as well as 11 business managers and assistant business managers and 8 more representatives and agents from our Locals, plus CLRA and your team from the BTA.
Getting all of these people in the same room was a monumental task that was started in late fall last year and took many hours of coordinated effort from many different groups, but everyone involved agreed that the event was a huge success.
It created a forum for open dialogue between government, industry and labour – the likes of which have not taken place in recent years. This opportunity for the three main groups that need to collaborate in order to move the province forward by attracting investment, creating jobs and growing the Alberta economy was well worth the effort.
Some of the things we discussed include:
· Resource diversification and the opportunities for economic growth and job creation that can be realized through value-added product development and refining our bitumen into higher grade, higher profit products. The government’s Petrochemical Diversification Program is an indication of their commitment to this issue, just like the Resource Diversification Council shows the commitment of both industry and labour to this issue. To this end, there was a lot of discussion around the need for the second phase of the Northwest Redwater Upgrader to proceed.
· Market access is an absolute requirement if we as a province are going to be able to realize the gains we see as possible from our resource development. This includes getting our product to tidewater – especially via the Energy East pipeline.
· Workforce development and apprentice and trades training are critical to the future success of industry. The primary purpose of the BTA, as well as the government, is to attract, develop, and supply the skilled workers required by our contractors and owners for decades to come. Collectively, Building Trades Union Joint Training Trust Funds have invested more than 500 million dollars into our training programs and facilities over the last ten years, and there are many gains to be made from working together to enhance opportunities for groups historically under-represented in the trades, such as the Aboriginal community, women and veterans.
· Safety, as always, is an important topic – we used the event to help stress the importance that we place on safety in the workplace to the representatives from Alberta’s government and to give them an understanding and appreciation for the efforts labour and industry take to ensure members are able to go home to their families at the end of each shift.
· We also took this opportunity to demonstrate the value that the BTA and our membership have to Alberta communities by discussing the fact that the Building Trades of Alberta Charitable Foundation, with the support of donors and sponsors, has donated over $6 million back into the communities we live and work in.
The value of the event cannot be understated. It was an opportunity for government officials to learn more about the Building Trades of Alberta and our affiliated unions and to see what we do and understand what a valuable partner we can be, along with industry, in building the province together, but it was also an opportunity for us and for industry to demonstrate our united vision and willingness and enthusiasm to partner up and get working. Relationships that were started and strengthened on Tuesday will help labour, industry and government work together over the next several years and move the province forward.
What are your thoughts? What other things can be done to help create a province in which our members have all the safe, good quality work they want? Let us know what you think can help.
In the last two blogs, we talked about what the BTA does to coordinate and promote the interests of our 16 affiliated unions, how we support our 75,000 members and how we work to enhance the environment that we all participate in through our constant efforts with relation to government and industry. Well, two weeks ago, a new organization was created, with the BTA sitting on the board. This new organization is dedicated to the advancement of petrochemical manufacturing and hydro-carbon refining in Alberta, with an end-goal of expanding the presence these industries have in our province and, as a result, create more jobs for skilled tradespeople.
The Resource Diversification Council is a partnership between leaders of Alberta’s energy sector and labour and related industries which will help Alberta grow existing industries and create new ones, open up new markets internationally, support local job growth and continued apprenticeship opportunities, foster environmental leadership and develop new revenue streams for the Government and industry.
All of these things benefit our membership in one way or another, which is why the BTA is so excited to be a part of this initiative. Other organizations represented on the RDC board include NOVA Chemicals, NW Refining, Williams, Keyera, Agrium, Stantec and CLR.
Having a team that is composed of both industry and labour is key, because providing a united voice when talking with the government makes it far easier to be heard: if the government knows that labour and industry want the same thing, there is nothing left for government to do but find a way to make it happen.
The Building Trades of Alberta is proud of the work that our members do and we are proud to work to support them through initiatives like the RDC.To learn more about the RDC, check out this article from the Edmonton Journal or visit the RDC website.
What do you think about work like this? Do you agree that it is important to develop downstream opportunities and to perform more refining here in Alberta? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week we talked about the overarching function of the Building Trades of Alberta, which is to work with industry partners to build an environment in which Locals are better able to provide work to their members.
This week, we will be talking about the other end of the equation: helping Locals get more members in order to meet the future labour demands we are working to increase. There are two main routes that the BTA is taking when it comes to attracting new members: working to attract membership from typically under-represented groups such as Aboriginal workers, women and veterans; and working with schools to show students that trades are an excellent career option.
When we talk about attracting under-represented groups into the trades, we do it through partnerships with organizations dedicated to helping people explore and succeed in the trades.
Trade Winds to Success is an organization that was originally created as a partnership between Alberta’s Union Training Trust Fund(s) and willing Aboriginal communities, and functions to provide pre-apprentice training in one of nine trades to Aboriginal students. Further, the program provides the students with required support through their apprenticeship and into their employment.
Build Together: Women of the Building Trades is a national program, initiated by the CBTU, but with an Alberta chapter supported by the BTA. A representative from each of the 16 affiliated trades unions makes up the committee and its role is to promote, support and mentor women in the skilled trades. Given that less than a quarter of the trade certificated in Alberta are held by women, this committee works to ensure that all Alberta women can view the trades as a viable option for a career, moving that ratio up closer to the natural mix of 50/50 men/women.
Helmets to Hardhats focuses of helping Canadian military veterans transitioning back into civilian life and making good use of the valuable skills they learned defending our country by applying them to work in the trades. A recent win by Helmets to Hardhats was the provincial recognition of the DND 404 license, which until recently permitted military personnel to drive large trucks buy was not transferable to civilian life. Holders of the DND 404 are now able to drive commercial vehicles without additional testing, helping them to gain better employment than they might otherwise initially have access to upon retiring from the military.
The BTA also does a lot of work with Alberta schools to encourage young Albertans to explore the trades and to supply schools with materials and support they may need to help students with this exploration. Examples of supports include trade cards packages that were created to help explain what each of the trades are that represent, a poster program that we ran last year to increase awareness and attendance at a variety of teachers’ conventions including Palliser and CCTCA in Calgary, GETCA in Edmonton and the Mighty Peace Teachers Convention in Grande Prairie. In addition to that, the BTA partners with CAREERS: The Next Generation to introduce programming into schools to expose students to the trades and to help them see working in the trades as a positive honorable career choice.
Do you have any ideas for other things that can be done to promote the trades? What do you do? Tell us why you joined the trades and what makes you keep doing this as opposed to looking for other work? It could be your story that motivates a student or someone from an under-represented group to look into becoming a tradesperson.
In the last nine months, I have worked hard to learn what it is that the Building Trades of Alberta does, how the organization fits in on the provincial and national scene, and what the benefits to members are of belonging to the BTA. In that time, I have heard lots of explanations and theories about what the BTA does and doesn’t do; what we are responsible for and what we aren’t. Here, I will lay out what I have learned so far, and, if after reading this, you think I missed something, please let me know. Alternatively, if you learn something from reading this, please share it with your friends and colleagues and talk about it with us on Facebook.
Our mandate says we “coordinate and promote the interests of 16 Alberta trade unions whose 75,000 members work in the residential, commercial and industrial construction, maintenance and fabrication industries”, but what does that mean to the average member? It means that we take direction from our Executive Board, which is made up of the Business Managers of each Local. This “E-Board” works together to determine what policies the BTA should talk to industry stakeholders about, on behalf of the membership. Policies like “The Building Trades of Alberta believes that labour mobility programs for skilled trades workers should support hiring Albertan workers first, and then workers from throughout Canada, before other labour sources are considered” and “The Building Trades of Alberta believes that our unions are equipped to be effective accredited apprenticeship administrators and approved, funded apprenticeship trainers for their specific trade”. (To have a look at our complete policy book, click here).
Fundamentally, the BTA works with government, owners and contractors to create an environment in which it is easier for our Locals to find jobs, and to secure the best possible working conditions and quality of life for skilled trades workers and their families. We also work hard to ensure that your worksites are as safe as they can be, including developing programs like Stand Up for Safety. We do all of that work to support the Locals, who provide the work to you as best as possible. We support the Locals in all of their efforts, but we do not make any decisions for the Locals or on behalf of the members with regard to collective agreements, alcohol and drug testing or any other decisions which directly impact the work life of a member.
Just as the union supports and protects its members within the trade(s) gathered under the union banner, the Building Trades of Alberta supports and promotes the interests of the 16 affiliated trade unions, because in unity there is strength. By presenting the building trades as a unified partner in the progress of Alberta, stakeholders are more apt to listen to what we have to say and to consult with us when they have questions, which we always do with the intent of creating an environment which will provide work for our members.
How does this match with your understanding of the Building Trades of Alberta? Do you have questions? Please ask. Let’s discuss this. Since all 75,000 of us ARE the BTA, it is important that we ALL understand the role of the BTA and our role as members – which is to talk about the BTA and to share what we know with others. By doing that, we create a stronger brand that we can all get behind and that industry knows they can rely on to stand together and to get work done right.
Next week, we will talk about the work that the BTA does to promote the trades as a career and how we encourage people to explore the trades, learn the benefits of belonging and ultimately, become your brother or sister.
We don’t talk about American politics here very often, even though the political circus taking place south of the border provides lots of opportunity for entertainment and surprise – usually thanks to “The Donald”, but others contribute to the carnival atmosphere as well.
This past weekend, Antonin Scalia died. If you can’t remember where you know that name from, he was a Justice on the Supreme Court in America.
You may be wondering why this matters to you. The American Supreme Court is made up of 9 members, all appointed for life by the president. Until Scalia’s death, the composition of the Supreme Court was 5 Republican Justices and 4 Democratic ones. Now there are 4 of each. This matters for two reasons:
First, since the president decides who will be the next Justice, is it any surprise that the Republicans, by and large, want the decision to wait until after the election, hoping that a Republican president would install a Republican Justice, restoring the imbalance that the Republicans have enjoyed for many years. Democrats (and Jeb Bush, interestingly) want Obama to make the appointment before he leaves office, despite the Republican-led Senate promising to fight any nomination he brings forward.
More immediately, this means that if there is a tie in the decisions of the Justices, then the lower court decision stands. This includes the decision that stated that allowing unions to collect fees from nonmembers for the costs of representing them violated the non-members’ freedom of speech. At the moment, the lower courts ruled in unions’ favour, but we shall see what happens.
So why are we talking about this? Because whether we like it or not, what happens in America affects us here, and what happens in American labour law can have an impact here.
We can’t affect what happens in American politics, but we can ensure that our government is a supportive of Unionized Labour as possible by getting involved ourselves. Talk to your MLAs and MPs about your concerns. Run for office yourself. Municipal, provincial or federal government all need the support and endorsement of citizens, and the Trades compose a large segment of the economy – if you don’t remember, we are responsible for the creation of the middle class – so governments want to listen to us. But they sometimes need to be reminded. So remind them. Use the links to your MLAs and MPs to start a conversation with them.
As always, please leave comments or thoughts here.
Those of you who attended the 2015 BTA Conference in September of last year may remember Alysia Rissling, the pilot for the Canadian women's bobsleigh team that the BTA is helping to sponsor. She gave an inspiring presentation about her journey becoming an Olympic hopeful.
Last week, she took a break from her competing in Europe to send us a letter telling us how things are going:
Dear Warren and members of the BTA,
I hope you and your families had a wonderful holiday season and start to 2016. I had a great time at home with my family in Edmonton before heading back to Calgary for a testing camp with the Canadian bobsleigh program. On January 1st they shipped me and 13 others to Europe with a one-way ticket. We have 3 women’s teams (one of which is piloted by me) and 1 men’s team in our developing crew. The men have had some experience on the European tracks but none of the women have ever driven any of the tracks over here, so the races we get to do are entered as we go and completely dependent on how fast we learn the new tracks and if our pushing standards are continually up to par. I’ve been here for 3 weeks now and have seen 3 new tracks. I have competed in two races in on the Europa Cup circuit, so I figured I’d fill you in about how it is going over here!
We flew into Frankfurt and picked up sled trucks and rental vehicles then collected the sleds that had been shipped over. We then drove the 4 hours south east into the Bavaria region of Germany to the Königssee track. The track is very fun, and has a big kriesel (360 degree turn) that is notoriously a little tricky. I had a very rough first day…for the first time in my life I crashed both training runs in a row. Luckily my brakeman Kasha Lee is tough as nails and such a great teammate and was back in the sled with me the next day. The next 3 days were great improvements and by race day I was feeling confident. The race had 16 women’s sleds, more than any race I have been in yet. It was also very competitive, as a lot of previous World Cup athletes decided not to attend the 3 North American World Cup races and entered the Europa Cup instead. I am so proud to announce a great come-back story, because with only 6 successful runs down the track, Kasha and I were able to claim a medal for 5th place! The only people in the top 5 were athletes that have been on the World Cup in either this season or last, and have had dozens if not hundreds of runs more experience on this German track. Our 2 goals were to push a 5.40 at the top, and come top 6. As the only Canadians on the podium, we managed to dig out a 5.38 and 5th, so we left extremely happy!
The next track on the list was only a short 2 hour drive to Igls, Austria. The small mountain town is only about 10 km up a mountain from Innsbruck, and it will be the host of the World Championships in February. I guess we brought the snow with us, as one of the training days was cancelled because the sled trucks couldn’t get up the hill! This meant we actually only got 5 trips down the track before race day, a huge disadvantage to us Canadians as it takes run volume to be able to perfect fast lines. The race was even more competitive with 18 women’s sleds, even including the Olympic silver medalist.
Usually I go into a race with a set plan in my head on which lines I will execute, because I am still learning the lines I take sometimes may not be right but the goal is to be consistent. With only 5 runs under my belt heading into the race, I actually went in a plan to try something completely different because what I had tried so far in training hadn’t been fast, and luckily it paid off. We finished in 7th place, and although I was frustrated to drop out of the medal position I am glad of the experience and will feel much more confident for Worlds. The racing in Igls didn’t end there, our coaches combined my 2-woman team with one of the other 2-woman teams and we entered the 4-person competition. Instead of sitting out and watching the boys we got to compete with them, getting ready for the first ever 4-woman race that will take place at World Championships this February. Also in the competition were 2 other all-women sleds, the Romanians and the Americans. The race had 30 sleds, and only the top 20 get a second run, so unfortunately we didn’t get a second heat but we had a great time, actually beat one of the men’s teams, and most importantly I got to practice driving the bigger, faster sled. Due to that result, it has recently been confirmed that I will get to pilot the second Canadian sled we are entering in the inaugural race on February 21st.
After the last morning 4-person race we packed up the sled trucks and headed 600km North to Altenberg, Germany. The track is hidden in a sparsely populated area just 25km from the Czech Republic boarder, and it has a nasty reputation. It is extremely technical and is considered one of the toughest tracks in the world just to make it to the bottom on all 4 runners. Regardless of it’s reputation, the track is still a regular stop on the European and World Cup tours, so we are going to have to learn it eventually. Even though there is no race here this week, our coaches decided to utilize our time here to get experience on the track without the pressure of performing. We started at lower starting points to learn the curves at the bottom at lower speeds, and once we got comfortable we moved up to the top. In general, I am extremely glad we had this opportunity. Next year when we come back for a race week there will be less anxiety and stress about learning the track and it will be easier to transition to have a competitive race. In the bobsleigh community, you are considered to be a brave and talented pilot if you have conquered Altenberg!
Today is my first full day off since we’ve arrived. As much as I wish I could go sight-seeing, theres a massive snow storm outside so instead I am taking a full day of rest and relaxation and already have my attention switched to St. Moritz, Switzerland. We leave tomorrow to the birthplace of bobsleigh, and the only remaining natural ice track in the world. Kasha and I will be competing in the last Europa Cup race of the season against around 20 women’s sleds. Again, the Canadian girls will be the only competitors who haven’t slid on this track yet in our careers, so hopefully we can learn it quick!
If you have caught any of the North American World Cup races in the last few weeks (or today in Whistler), it may be confusing as to why we are not racing in them. Especially in Whistler, it seems silly that Canada is only entering one Canadian representative (Kaillie Humphries) on the home track. I can assure you that although I am positive that I would do really well in the small 8 sled race, my coaches are not worried about top World Cup finishes this year, and the goal is still to peak for the 2018 Olympic Games. In order to do that I simply have to get some experience on these European tracks. The extremely good news is that I have qualified for the World Championships, and will actually get to compete this year! The 2-woman race is a 4 heat race over 2 days on February 12th and 13th in Igls, Austria. I will send a link and more info as soon as I know about what time CBC will be broadcasting it.
That's all I have to report for now. Again, thank you so much for your continued support…I wouldn’t be here doing what I love without it! I’ve included some pictures (Learning the Track, At the Podium, 4 Woman Team) . Feel free to share with anyone who is interested for updates!
All the best…Go Canada!
I know you are probably tired of hearing about resolutions at this time of year, so I’ll be brief. Did you make any resolutions? How are they holding up? Mine is doing well so far, and I’m feeling pretty confident that I’ll be able to keep it, but it can be a real struggle sometimes. I’m sure you can relate. Even if resolutions aren’t your style, each of us from time to time makes promises to ourselves or to others. Sometimes, those promises can be hard to keep, but when you follow through, it can feel like a real victory and it signals to other people that your word means something.
We saw that with our new Prime Minister, when prior to the election he pledged to repeal Bill C 377, the Labour Organization Financial Disclosure Bill, and less than two months after getting elected, he took the first steps to repeal the Bill by eliminating reporting requirements.
We all make promises every day that affect our brothers and sisters. By belonging to a Trade Union, we pledge to support and protect each other. Some groups make this official by having a Code, some are taught this by the brothers and sisters who are there before them.
The BTA works to support our members in fulfilling this promise. Last year, we introduced Stand Up for Safety, the next incremental step in safety at the workplace. Stand Up for Safety relies on you to make and keep two promises:
1. Be willing to approach and address fellow workers when you see something that causes you concern
2. Be willing to receive help when fellow workers approach and address you
The program is not designed to find fault, it is designed to further enable all of us to look out for each other – to help us keep our promises to protect and support each other. Are you familiar with the Stand Up for Safety program? Check out our video and talk to us or your Local about getting a hardhat sticker or some promotional material to show that you are willing to keep your promise.
Keep your eyes peeled this year for Phase Two of the Stand Up for Safety program, which will include a new video and a hardhat sticker design competition with some pretty cool prizes up for grabs.
As always, please contact us if you have any questions or if you have a story to share with our community.