Welcome to the BTA Blog. We invite your feedback.
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.
We hope you all had (or are having) a good rest over the holiday break.
If you recall, January 1, 2016 was the date that Bill 377 – the Bill that the Harper Conservatives introduced and passed which would impose heavy reporting obligations upon Unions and other related organizations, under the pretext of freedom of information. Well, on December 21, 2015, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Revenue, announced she has waived reporting requirements for labour organizations and labour trusts. Click here to see the press release from the federal government. Below is a statement on the issue from Bob Blakely, the Canadian Operating Officer for out Canada’s Building Trades Unions.
Canada’s Building Trades Unions Welcome the Announcement on Bill C 377
On behalf of Canada’s Building Trades Unions, representing over 500,000 Canadians, Bob Blakely, Canadian Operating Officer said: “During the debate on these onerous, narrowly targeted amendments the Liberal and New Democratic parties stood up for Canadian unionized workers. Now that the Liberals have formed government one of their first acts was to restore fairness in respect of the confidentiality of union financial information and allowing unions to be treated like every other tax entity in Canada. We are grateful to them for living up to their promises and to treating us with fairness and with respect.”
Bill C 377, a Private Member’s Bill, only had support from some of the Conservative caucus but found wide support with the MERIT Contractors and their interlinking partners LabourWatch and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. These are organizations that do not have unionized workers. The purposes behind this legislation was to compel unions and any organization that had a relationship with unions such as health, welfare, pension, training, apprenticeship plans set up by a collective agreement to disclose any and all financial information that they had on a public government funded website. The goal of the legislation was to give antiunion organizations an intelligence bonanza and weaken Canadian unions in the process. No other similar organization, including employers’ organizations such as the supporters of this Bill, would have had to surrender their business confidentiality to the benefit of their competitors.
Lionel Railton, Canadian Director of the International Union of Operating Engineers stated “As Canadians, we file our taxes and make disclosures to the Canada Revenue Agencies, we all have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Unions should be able to expect that degree of privacy. As well, we have business interests and we seek to achieve common goals through communal action – – no one expects other similar organizations to give up their privacy!”
Finally, the Bill C377 amendments were subject to court challenge, some of which have already been filed, and others which awaited the coming into force date of January 1, 2016. Blakely said about this aspect “it seems pretty clear that the amendments were not about the Income Tax Act, but rather about the regulation of the trade unions which is a constitutional power reserved to the provinces and 7 of the provinces actively opposed the Bill. The amendments curtail communal action and the right of free speech in breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It would’ve only been a matter of time until Bill C377 was struck down. The new Government knew that and acted positively to avoid needless litigation. We are grateful for their careful and forceful attention to this matter.”
In conclusion, Blakely stated “we greatly appreciate a government that actually follows through on their election promises.”
Today marks the beginning of a new age of cooperation between the Building Trades Unions in Canada and the federal government. What do you think the future holds? Let us know here.
Well, here we are! Four days until Christmas (for those of us who celebrate it). Have you got all your decorations up? Your presents bought and wrapped? Have you been good all year? Me neither!
As you know, Unions have fought long and hard to ensure that workers are treated fairly. One of the things that is included in that is the right for workers to observe or celebrate special days, such as Christmas, without being required to work, and without having to forego pay. In Alberta, there are 9 statutory holidays, including Christmas, as well as two more optional days: Heritage Day and Boxing Day. Further, people who are required to work on those day can receive overtime pay (another fact of the working life that Unions struggled for the benefit of workers).
These benefits are available to most workers – many of whom are not Union workers. So why do they get the benefits that our predecessors worked so hard to win for us? Because employers realize that if they did not provide benefits comparable to what Unionized workers can get, then everyone will Unionize! So, whether people work Union or not, everyone has Unions to thank for having holidays, getting paid over the stat holidays, and getting overtime when they have to work those days.
So while they are nestled snug in their beds over the holiday, with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads, know that they have Unions to thank. As do we all. And to all, a good night!
Have a great time over the Christmas break. If you celebrate Christmas, have a merry one. If Christmas isn’t your thing, enjoy the general sense of good cheer permeating the province. Get out and enjoy the beautiful winter that Alberta provides us. And go see Star Wars.
See you in 2016.
We’ve talked before about the great strides that Unions have made in safeguarding the rights of workers, helping women achieve equal status and protecting children from exploitation. Much progress has been made, but there is still a lot of work to do.
At the end of September, a lawsuit was filed against Nestle, Mars and Hershey, alleging that the companies are using child slave labour in their supply chain for cocoa harvesting, according to an article in The Daily Beast. The Ivory Coast in West Africa produces two-thirds of the cocoa beans used in the world, feeding a chocolate industry worth $90 billion – and much of it is on the backs children and slaves.
What can we do to help? For starters, we can stop supporting companies that rely on child labour and slavery to ensure a healthy profit margin. This means ensuring that the chocolate we indulge in is not made from cocoa sourced in the Ivory Coast. That can be tough to do, but it may be easier than deciding to eat no more chocolate until things change.
Unfortunately, things are not likely to change soon without pressure from consumers and other groups, like www.slavefreechocolate.org, who work to pressure companies to end child slavery and child labour in the cocoa industry. Nestle and other candy companies have been aware of the issue for who knows how long, and they promised to remedy the situation – 14 years ago, and little has changed.
As union members, we should oppose the cruel and unfair labour practices taking place in the cocoa industry. As human beings, we should be incensed that children are being treated the way they are. Even as things for us are pretty good, we need to remain vigilant in our support of people around the world.
For a listing of chocolate companies who do not use child labour or forced labour, click here.
What do you think about this? What actions, if any, will you take? Let us know here.
Today's blog is actually from our sister Delanee Daviau, who responded to our request to send us a story about the work that she does and why she loves it. We'd love to hear from more members, so if you have a story to share, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get your story out for people to enjoy. In the meantime, enjoy Delanee's story:
My name is Delanee Daviau, I am a Journeyman Welder and Apprentice Ironworker with Ironworkers Local 720, and represent my Local for "Build Together" - Women of the Building Trades.
At the tender age of 17 years old I met a girl who had been a Welders' helper on the Pipeline, she described her job, her wage and her hours as well as her love for her job, I thought it would be the perfect fit for me. Still in High School and unsure where life would take me, I decided to try a co-op program at the local Beauty School, needless to say after 2 short weeks I knew this was not my path. After graduation I applied at North Island College in Campbell River, BC for the 7 month long "Level C Welding Program" within weeks I had heard back and had a start date. At that point in my life I didn't even know what a stinger, welding rod, or cutting torch looked like but I was excited to learn. The 7 months were full of ups and downs and learning curves, one of the ups being where I met my best friend who now is a Member of the Boilermakers Local 146.
On a two week school break I had met my now Husband, David, who introduced me to the Union as he is also a Member of Local 720. I moved to Alberta after graduating the Program at 19 years old, worked through my Apprenticeship, became a Member and never looked back. This career has been more rewarding than I would have ever imagined, I have gained confidence, skill and one hell of a backbone. It has taken my personal life to new heights allowing me to travel the world, become a real estate investor and work side by side with my Husband. I am grateful for the support from my Family who always knew I could it, for my Local for being so supportive of women in the Industry, and to my Ironworker Brothers and Sisters for always having my back.
If I could do it all over again, I would still be right where I am.
How was your Halloween? Did you get the chance to hand out candy and treats to lots of scary little monsters? Or maybe you went out and had grown up fun at a friend’s house party or even hit a party at a local establishment? Maybe you hit a haunted house like Deadmonton House? Or perhaps hiding in the basement with the lights out watching TV, hoping Trick or Treaters don’t think you are home is more your speed. Whichever way you chose to address Halloween, we hope you had a great weekend. And rest easy, chances are, the candy you ate was probably produced in a union shop if it was made in North America. Have a look here to see the full list of union-made Halloween treats that were available this weekend.
Speaking of union-made, does that factor into your purchase decisions? Do you succumb to Wal-Mart’s convenience or do you make a point of buying your goods in union-friendly shops? Does “Made in Canada” mean something to you? Does how a store or business treats its employees make a difference in your choice of who you deal with? If you knew that a business actively worked to prevent unions from being able to organize at their site, would you still shop there?
Now think about construction owners and contractors. These are the companies that by and large provide the jobs that we work to provide for our families. What choice do we want them to be making? Do we want them to be able to exploit workers or to use under-qualified people to do the work in order to put a few more bucks into their own pockets? Or do we want contractors and owners to understand that union workers provide greater value, higher quality and safer work environments? The Ontario Construction Secretariat recently commissioned a report that shows unionized construction workplaces have lower rates of lost-time claims than their non-unionized counterparts. 14% lower, in fact! See the report here.
We need to make sure that we are consistent with our messaging – let contractors, owners, everyone know that we are the standard to which everyone should aspire in terms of quality of life, quality of work, safety on the worksite and best overall value. We gain strength from our unity, and that unity extends to workers everywhere. By supporting businesses that support unions, we add strength to the union movement and give power to our collective voice.
Think about that next time you have to make a quick grocery run: Safeway or Save-On Foods?
Tell us what you think about the idea of supporting union shops versus buying whatever you want. Do you think it makes a difference? Let us know at Facebook, Twitter, through email or in the comment section below.
What a fun and exciting time to be Canadian! Not a great time to be a Conservative, however – provincial or federal. Both levels of government were sent clear messages from the electorate that the policies and practices of the ruling Conservative parties were no longer going to be accepted by the citizens. First in Alberta in May, when the NDP swept into power and then last week, when the Liberals took away the keys to power from Stephen Harper and his Conservatives.
Whatever your political stripe, whether you lean left, right or other, the fact that so many people got out and voted is remarkable and inspiring. Often, ruling parties take low voter turnout as consent, so it was clear that consent was not forthcoming in the latest federal election – 68.49% of the electorate turned out to vote. That score isn’t remarkable in itself, as Canadians have historically voted within about 10% of that rate, but it is the highest turnout in over 20 years and bucks the trend of declining turnout which has been taking place since 1972.
This also highlights something important: democracy only works if the people affected participate. As we posted on Facebook on the 23rd of October, noted political commentator (among many other things) Noam Chomsky said that “Labour Unions are the leading force for democratization and progress.”
Did you vote in the federal election? How do you participate in your union? The more involved you get, the greater the influence you can have and the stronger your union becomes – just like electing a new Prime Minister, but right here, having direct effect on you and your family.
So remember, it is your level of involvement in your union that determines how much it is able to accomplish – act in the manner that you want to from your local.
I hope you enjoyed reading the guest blogs we’ve had here the last couple of times: One from sister Brandi Thorne and the other was the award-winning essay from sister Rosemary Curran-Pipestem. We’d love to have more guest bloggers, so if you think you would like to be one, write to me at email@example.com with your blog idea and we can work together to get you published.
Speaking of getting published, have you seen the new BTA video: Stand Up for Safety? It was released at this year’s BTA conference. If you haven’t seen it (or, if you would like to have another look), go to the very top of this page and click the YouTube button – it’ll take you to the BTA channel on YouTube. We have several other videos there, the new Helmets to Hardhats and Better SuperVision promo videos.
Anyway, back to the BTA video. The video was produced over 3 and a half months and includes some interviews with people you may know. Filming took place at Shell Scotford (thanks to Frank Engli, Turnaround Manager and his team for their cooperation and support). Everyone I had the pleasure of meeting there, from management through to the men and women on the tools, was very helpful and generous with their time. I’m sure you’ll recognize some of them working in the background of the video.
The point of the video is to bring forward a next step in the evolution of safety practices. Lost time incidents have decreased by approximately 70% since 2000, however, this improvement in safety performance has levelled off in the last four years, indicating that the existing safety practices are working well, but more needs to be done to reduce lost time injuries even further. That’s where Stand Up for Safety comes in.
The philosophy of Stand Up for Safety is simple: Be willing to approach and address fellow workers when you see something that causes you concern and Be willing to receive help when fellow workers approach and address you. That’s it. We all look after each other and we accept and appreciate when other try to help us out. That’s something that everyone from apprentice to owner can get behind.
We will be rolling out some materials to support the video and help spread the word about the program, including hardhat stickers, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, have a look at the video and let us know what you think. We worked hard on it, and are proud of it, but we always appreciate constructive feedback. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or through the BTA Facebook page.
Just back from the 2015 BTA Conference and one of the highlights of the event was the awarding of the first annual John Tackaberry Future Leaders Award, named after our departed friend and brother, to the apprentice in attendance who wrote the essay on leadership that was chosen by the selection committee as the best. Anyone who knew John, knew how strong a leader he was and how much he valued mentorship and supporting our apprentices, so this award is exactly the kind of thing he would have wanted, and we are all sure that he would have been proud of the efforts of all entrants. Below is the winning essay, written by Rosemary Curran-Pipestem, an apprentice from Ironworkers Local 725 in Calgary. Look her up and congratulate her for such outstanding work.
"Leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example.”
I believe in leading by example
I am a 23 year old ironworker in the second year of my generalist apprenticeship. I am a Tsuut’ina Nation member and a Trade Winds to Success program graduate. I love my ironworking career and believe that it provides me with platform to succeed in life as there is many options to grow and climb the column to successes. I plan on achieving my Alberta Red Seal in 2017, followed by my Blue Seal. Thereafter, I would love to run a company or possibly even start my own company. A personal achievement of mine would be to obtain my Gold Seal.
Last year, I volunteered with the creation of IW725’s Curtain Wall training structure. This was important, as I believe in supporting my Union’s activities, especially when they help apprentices learn safe and efficient ways of the installation of curtain wall.
This June, I was honoured to be the only apprentice asked to attend the Brookfield Place mock-up in Miami. I was chosen to help lead my company with the intention that I’d help to lead my team with the curtain wall layout and installation on site. While there, I was challenged by the unfamiliar blueprints and I worried that my lack of ability would harm our team. However, my co-workers were very supportive and we were able to overcome the challenge. Dismayed by my poor showing, I am now registered for a blueprint reading course. In all aspects of my career and life, I believe in finding solutions to challenges. Even if I am not able to address at challenge at the moment, I will work hard to find a solution to ensure a strong future.
I believe that one of the greatest aspects of leading by example is that there is always a set of eyes on you, there will always be another generation of apprentices watching and learning. By setting a good example you are not only keeping yourself safe but also teaching other apprentices how to complete a job safe and efficient.
I also believe that a positive attitude is very important in a leader. Part of how I create a strong sense of team is by drawing out co-workers’ positives attributes and building relationships, this creates an environment conducive to achieving company goals. Also, the positive atmosphere encourages team members to voice their ideas. I am leader by being an active member of a team. I am a leader because I see opportunities everywhere. I am a leader because I am not afraid to ask questions and seek council when needed. I am a leader by learning from my past and seeking to continuously improve. I am a leader because I enjoy taking responsibility, trying new things and even if that means taking the job no one wants. I am a leader because I’m not only open to criticism but I learn from it.
I'm a young woman starting an amazing career with the Ironworkers of Local 725 who has the drive to succeed and will continue to be an example to future leaders.
A WORKPLACE THREAT
Preventing harassment is everyone’s responsibility on the worksite and in the office.
Coming on the heels of recent class action lawsuits and investigations surrounding the sexual harassment of women in the RCMP and Canadian military, now seems a good time to talk about the state of play for our female members and their workplaces. Working in a safe and healthy place is everyone’s right and we need all hands on deck to make it happen.
The Alberta Human Rights Commission (albertahumanrights.ab.ca) defines sexual harassment as “any unwelcome sexual behaviour that adversely affects, or threatens to affect, directly or indirectly, a person’s job security, working conditions or prospects for promotion or earnings.” Behaviour ranges from “suggestive remarks, sexual jokes or compromising invitations, verbal abuse, visual display of suggestive images, to leering or whistling, patting, rubbing or other unwanted physical contact, outright demands for sexual favours and physical assault.”
These definitions do little to encourage an understanding of the effects of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment creates an unhealthy atmosphere in the workplace, and one which affects the entire workforce. For victims, the consequences can be serious and debilitating. Sometimes the employee experiences pressure to the point that it drives her to leave her job, or experiences such emotional stress that it inhibits her ability to perform a job to acceptable standards. Sexually harassed women are reported to suffer anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep disorders, weight loss or gain, and nausea. This culmination of poor health can lead to time away from the job with unpaid leave.
The consequences for women, as a group of workers collectively, are also serious. If a workplace culture tolerates any form of sexual harassment then the victims face a difficult decision about staying, going, or worse yet considering a new career.
In a relatively short period of time, two very serious incidents of sexual harassment have been brought forward to our union leadership, but the reality is that there are many more that go unreported for fear of retaliation or discreet blacklisting. Often, these incidents go unreported to management or to union representatives simply because the victim does not want to make waves.
The culture we work in does not do enough to encourage people to come forward; in fact, in many ways it discourages them. Sisters who have reported sexual harassment on the job have often been branded as “rats” or “troublemakers.” If a sister has the courage to make a complaint, she often suffers in silence from impending gang mentality and retaliation. Our brothers often shy away from any contact with sisters for fear that they may be accused of something untoward or get caught up in an issue that may compromise them and therefore prefer to not work with women at all. It’s a sad testament to our industry.
The Alberta Regional Council has pledged to do better for its members. In collaboration with the Sisters in the Brotherhood, the leadership has committed to developing a process for dealing with complaints. Included in this process will be a mechanism to ensure job stewards and business agents are included at the onset of any investigation.
We are in the early developmental stages of putting together a sexual harassment policy, for which we hope to get employer input and buy-in. Once it’s complete, we hope to train front-line supervision, stewards and members on how to unite to bring about safe and tolerant workplaces and to provide tangible guidance when these unsavoury events occur.
As a member, you play an important role in securing this change. Just as safety personnel preach about hazards on the job and use catch phrases like “If you see it – you own it,” we must all unite under the harassment banner with the same amount of vigour and courage. So I would ask you to please, when the time comes, get involved in ridding our workplaces of sexual harassment.
The other day, my friend Gerry (many of you know Gerry here at the BTA) sent me an article about a relative of mine that I had only briefly heard about as a child. It turns out that I have Labour in my blood!
His name was Aneurin (or Nye) Bevan and by the age of 19, he was the head of his local Miners’ Lodge in Tredegar, southwest Wales. He later became a Welsh Labour party politician, spending 31 years as an MP and he was most well-known for spearheading the establishment of the National Health Service, designed to provide free at point-of-need medical care to all Britons. He also became the leader of the Labour party’s left wing, which came to be known as “Bevanites”!
The main objectives of the Bevanites were state control of the distribution or exchange of goods, free and comprehensive welfare, health care and education, housing for all and full employment.
I won’t go on too long about him, but I can’t not mention the fact that in a poll for the Top 100 Welsh Heroes conducted in Wales in 2004, the largest poll in Welsh history, Nye placed first! Two places ahead of Tom Jones (sorry, Catherine). Other notable people on the list included the poet Dylan Thomas, the actor Catherine Zeta-Jones and Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
So, thank you, Gerry, for pointing out my Union heritage to me – maybe that’s why I feel so at home here.
Do you have any stories about interesting relatives that you would like to share with the BTA community? Let me know.
What a busy week (and weekend) last week!
First, we had Monday off for Labour Day (thanks, Unions!) which was awesome. I don’t know about you, but I love having an extra day to sleep in. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday, I volunteered with the Building Trades of Alberta Charitable Foundation as we worked with Yellowhead Casino to raise some funds. The hours were long – 6pm to 4am – but worthwhile. I got to meet some great people giving selflessly to help us out. People who spend a great deal of their life donating time to charities; people who just believe in the value of giving back to their communities.
Then, on the weekend, I drove down to Okotoks to attend the 3rd Annual Solidarity Slugfest, again, in support of the Building Trades of Alberta Charitable Foundation, but more importantly, it was an opportunity for the Brothers and Sisters in attendance to get together and build the Union community. I saw Ironworkers, Carpenters, Plumbers and Pipefitters, Operating Engineers, Sheet Metal Workers and Labourers all working together to support our Charitable Foundation in rain and in sunshine and getting to know each other off the tools.
I have worked in a few different roles: municipal administration, pensions, benefits, and education, and in none of those organizations have I witnessed or felt the level of camaraderie and brotherhood that I have since starting here at the BTA. That sense of belonging and mutual support is something that you don’t realize matters until you don’t have it – believe me, it matters a lot.
That is why it is so important that we all work to ensure that our community grows stronger. We can all work to enhance the spirit of Brotherhood by attending and participating in the various Local and BTA events that take place throughout the year, and by encouraging our brothers and sisters to do the same. In my other jobs, there was very little sense of belonging and it was like pulling teeth to get people to spend any time together that wasn’t required by the job. Having the opportunity to work somewhere that values that sense of community and that goes out of its way to provide opportunities to get together with my friends and coworkers is something that I’m immensely grateful for and that I worry many members may take for granted.
So get out there! Participate! Find out what is going on and join in! I do my best to keep you up-to-date through Facebook and Twitter and I encourage you to let me know about any events that I haven’t yet shared so that we can keep growing this awesome community that we have. As always, feel free to leave me comments here or to connect with me through Facebook or Twitter. It would be great to hear from you.
Labour Day Message 2015
Here we are - Labour Day 2015. In previous years’ messages we have recognized our work, our contributions to our communities and the history which we were built upon. This year, we ought to take a moment to recognize the moment of change that is occurring in our industry—and what we can do to lead that change.
The workplace, as we know it, is not going to look the same in the future. Our Baby Boom members who have worked incredibly hard over the years to build and maintain Canada will retire. Change is scary to most people- venturing into the unknown is never an easy task. It is our responsibility as leaders to prepare our workforce and our industry for the change that is now upon us. Inclusion, Respect in the Workplace and Mentorship are all key pillars critical to our success as we manage this change.
Inclusion is about being valued, respected and supported. It’s about focusing on the needs of every tradesperson and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential. Inclusion must be reflected in our industry culture and practices that support a diverse workforce. Every single one of our members should feel welcome on our job sites, in our industry and in our unions.
Respect in the Workplace is critical to maintaining and increasing a diverse workforce. Respect fosters collaboration, synergy and cooperation, which are essential ingredients for creating a workforce that values productivity, performance and the quality of our work. Anyone who has looked at the numbers for growth and replacement of the current workforce knows we are NOT going to have the workforce unless we use all sources of supply of interested and bright young people.
Mentorship is critical to the success of our future workforce. The legacy of a skilled tradesperson is their wealth of knowledge and experience in their craft. We must ensure that their knowledge, expertise and work ethic are passed down to the next generation. We must focus our efforts on allowing Journeypersons to recognize their skills sets as teachers and mentors. We must focus our efforts on training our Apprentices how to learn from their mentors so that they build a solid foundation for themselves as our future workforce. The Apprentice/Journeyperson relationship is not what it used to be, and it is our responsibility to educate our members to understand this. We will be better for it and the people who follow us will be better equipped than we ever were for the challenges of tomorrow! Some of our best men will be women and we will be better for that as well! Change is in the air Brothers and Sisters; it is inevitable and necessary for our growth and success as an industry. To quote Charles Darwin “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change”. We need to be the best managers of that dynamic.
On behalf of the Chairman, members of the Canadian Executive Board for Canada’s Building Trades Unions, and the staff of the Canadian Office I would like to wish you all the best for Labour Day 2015!!
Robert R. Blakely
Canadian Operating Officer
As we are all looking forward to the coming long weekend, it seems like the perfect time to spend a moment to think about the significance of Labour Day. So many people see it as just another day off from work (or a day to earn time-and-a-half). Either way, we like the day, but fail to appreciate how hard-fought the day really is.
Back in the 1800’s, trade unions were outlawed. Workers had no rights; men, women and children alike were exploited by short-sighted employers who believed that productivity at the expense and on the backs of over-worked and under-paid employees was the best route to success. Sir John A Macdonald, our first Prime Minister, passed the Trade Unions Act, which decriminalized Trade Unions. Let that sink in for a moment – it used to be illegal to belong to a union!
Fast forward to today and we have reaffirmed, as recently as 2007 in the B.C. Health Services decision, the rights of Canadian citizens to organize and to bargain collectively as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact the Supreme Court of Canada has suggested that a legal duty to bargain is an indispensable element of freedom of association.
I have posted to our Facebook page each week, and will continue to do so, about events in the history of the labour movement in Canada and around the world, as well as accomplishments of the labour movement that all workers enjoy the benefits of, such as weekends, minimum wage, paid sick days, benefits and pensions, not to mention working for equality for women and the elimination of child labour.
On this Labour Day, we are mindful of those who fought diligently for those rights we enjoy today and we have an obligation to protect what has been passed down from generation to generation. This legacy of protection and support is one that the labour movement in general, including you and me, must manage carefully, so that future generations can continue to benefit and appreciate the gains that have been made on their behalf.
While labour unions continue to work to provide a balance between employers and employees to the ultimate benefit of all society, perhaps they have a higher purpose now that they did in the past. Providing industry or sector leadership and promoting employer partnerships that further advance worker safety, knowledge, quality, and productivity can cast labour unions in a new progressive light. It is a different way of looking at things, but if today’s unions are going to maintain their market share and viability we should be thinking about how we can become “indispensable” to the Alberta and Canadian economies.
As members of trade unions and participants in the labour movement, it is our responsibility to elevate the status of unions and become consistently referred to as the sector experts and problem solvers we are, in the minds of investors, owners, governments, and the public at large.
We owe a debt of gratitude to those that paid our dues and set the stage for the quality of life and benefits we enjoy today. How better to honour that legacy than to secure our position as the most sought after experts in our applicable trades and professions.
What can you do to help secure the future of the labour movement? What have you done? Let me know. I would love to share your story with the world to help motivate others to contribute securing trade unions’ place in the success of our province and our country.
Do you know what the BTA does? As it turns out, despite all the great and important work that we do, one area that we have not been great at is sharing what it is that we do. I’d like to change that. Still being relatively new here, I have had the opportunity / requirement to learn about what we do. One of the most important ways I’ve learned about what we do is by working with the BTA mandate.
The goal of the mandate is to provide clarity around the purpose of the BTA and to lay out how the BTA achieves our objectives. Our mandate, clearly lays out the kinds of work that we do to support your locals as they work to secure jobs for you. Some people think that the BTA is focused on getting people jobs. We absolutely do that, but not in the literal sense. Your locals work with contractors and through the dispatch system to provide jobs for you. The BTA is out there every promoting the benefits of hiring our skilled trades professionals in order to help the locals get the jobs that they can then offer to you. We do that by working with owners, contractors and the government to secure opportunities for union work on current and upcoming projects, creating an environment in which union members can prosper.
The BTA supports industry partners and their initiatives that strive to guarantee the safest working environments for our members. Union sites have some of the best safety records in the world and the reason for that is because unions value members above profit. By ensuring that members are safe on site, we can ensure that members get home safely to their families and are able to work another day.
Advocacy is a huge part of the BTAs mandate: advocating and promoting the unionized construction, maintenance and fabrication industries in Alberta. We also work to develop long-term, successful working relationships with industry partners and government. This advocacy and promotion helps to gain market share which in turn provides more opportunities and jobs for building trades members.
As you know, the industry is changing and the workforce is aging, meaning more and more apprentices are needed to ensure that the work can get done. The BTA promotes education, training and apprenticeships that uphold the highest standards of certification that produce the best-qualified tradespersons available. This focus on quality and productivity helps to ensure demand for union labour in the future, which means securing jobs for current and future union tradespeople.
Why does the BTA do all this? Just like a union can provide a single voice for workers on a jobsite, the BTA provides a single voice for the building trades when interacting with industry partners and the government. Any partner has a good deal of incentive to listen to a voice that is 75,000 strong.
Finally, as I noted above, the BTA coordinate and promotes the interests of the 16 Alberta trade union who, in turn, work to promote and support the union members. Together, we all work to secure the best possible working conditions and quality of life for skilled workers and their families. To see the mandate in full, visit here.
So, who is the BTA? The BTA is all of us. All 75,000 hard-working and highly qualified members of our affiliated unions: everyone else you know working in the unionized skilled building trades in Alberta. We are your friends and your family. We are your Brothers and your Sisters. And together, we work to secure our future.
Over the next few weeks and months, I will be returning to the topic of “What does the BTA do?” to provide you with more context, more information and more evidence of the value you get from being a member. But that’s enough of me talking for now. Tell me about a time when you or someone you know worked to promote the trades, to support a Brother or Sister or to perfect your skills. Let’s share your story. Email me at email@example.com or reply in the comments below.
As many of you know (and the rest of you will find out now), I did not come my role with the Building Trades of Alberta by way of a trade, although I have used a torch and swung a hammer. In fact, when I was in high school, my father was really into trains. Not the train sets that you set up in your basement – the real deals. So he bought an old caboose from the CN graveyard (he explained that they are actually called “vans” in Canada but I still prefer caboose), and we proceeded to tear it apart, right down to the trucks.
Once it was fully disassembled, we blasted the old paint of all the metal and repainted it and reassembled the trucks, even mounting the chassis on a length of track! We then rebuilt the body of the caboose from scratch. From the outside, it looked exactly like a caboose – we even matched the paint to official CN standards to ensure it was the right shade of red. On the inside, however, we turned the caboose into a bunkhouse, complete with sleeping for six, a wood-burning stove and a washroom.
That project took about a year for us to finish, working primarily on the weekends, and taught me a real appreciation for the satisfaction that comes from creating something that requires your hands and your mind to come into existence.
In a way, the work I am doing here is similar, although my tools are not like those used by our membership. I am working to build a community here; through this blog, though our social media presence on Facebook and Twitter and through the BTA website. I can’t do it alone, though – I need your help. I need you to help me connect with as many members (and non-members) as possible. I need you to like the BTA Facebook page so that you can see what we are up to here, and then repost that stuff so your friends can see it too and they can like us as well.
So will you do that? Will you help me build a community? Send people to our Facebook page, our Twitter page and our website so they can see what we have to offer and so they can connect with us and help the community grow. Stop by the website each week and answer the Question of the Week. Talk about it on the job, at home, at the grocery store – wherever you have people around you.
I look forward to hearing from you (and your friends).
Last week I talked about responsibility – specifically, I talked about your responsibility to get involved in the Federal election, whether you do that by taking up Brother Mike Rezansoff’s challenge, by visiting the Let’s Build Canada website and participating in their initiatives or simply by getting informed and voting on October 19.
Today, I want to talk about responsibilities closer to home. The responsibility that we all have to protect our Brothers and Sisters and to help our Locals and our industry to grow and thrive.
We know about our responsibility to each other on the jobsite – to ensure that each of us is working in a safe environment, to be sure that each of us is able to go home to our families, in one piece at the end of our shift or at the end of our rotation. Knowing about it is just the beginning, though. Are you following through? Do you keep an eye out for your fellow tradesmen and let them know that you have their back? Are you open to accepting input from others trying to keep you safe? It’s all about mutual responsibility and care.
Growing our industry, strengthening our Locals and increasing the Union share of the market is another way that we can protect ourselves and our fellow union members. Union came about because the founders knew that a collective voice is stronger and harder to ignore than an individual voice. The larger and stronger that collective voice is, the more impact it can have on an industry or a community.
As Union members, it is up to us to work to ensure that our Unions are as strong as possible. That means convincing people that the work we do is critical to the growth of our economy, that our jobs and the satisfaction we get from doing them are worth the effort and that anyone would be lucky to have the opportunity to do the work that we do. So get out there, be proud of what you do, encourage others to join you, tell people to contact your Local and find out about joining a skilled trade. Ultimately, that is how we protect our livelihood and ensure success for generations to come.
What do you think? Is this something you can commit to doing? Can you think of other ways to support and protect our Brothers and Sisters? Let me know in the comments below.
Today, I want to talk to you about responsibility. We all have responsibilities, whether we are talking about the responsibility we have to raise our children in safe, loving environments, the responsibility we have to provide for our loved ones in whatever way we can or the responsibility to stay safe on the job and to help our Brothers and Sisters do the same. No matter what, people count on you, even if the only person counting on you is yourself.
The responsibility I’m talking about today is the responsibility we have to EVERYONE. We know, as Union members, the value and importance of being involved, of knowing that what we say and do makes a difference and accepting that part of what we do is to create a better world. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has given us a gift by calling the longest federal election campaign since 1872 – he has given us the opportunity to be heard nation-wide for two-and-a-half months, and we have the responsibility to do that.
People speculate that the reason he opted for a nearly 80-day campaign period is that the Progressive Conservative party has so much more money than any of the other federal parties and a longer campaign would give them the advantage in terms of spending. That means we need to ensure that whatever candidates, running for election with whatever party each of us decides to promote gets the support that they need to run in this election.
One way to do this is to take up the challenge issued by Brother Mike Rezansoff, the Southern Alberta Manager for the Building Trades of Alberta. In a nutshell, he is challenging everyone to connect with the candidate(s) of their choice, and, if the candidate is willing to publicly state that they will repeal Bill C377, donate to that candidate’s election fund and amount matching the Bill’s number, such as $377. Have a look here to see the challenge.
Another way to get involved is to check out Let’s Build Canada and start spreading the word about how you, along with the Building Trade Construction Unions, believe we should be advocating for public investment in infrastructure, expanded apprenticeships and fair policies to reduce income inequality.
If those two approaches aren’t your bag, then just make sure you stay informed and keep talking with your buddies, your family and your coworkers – help them get informed and engaged. We know that recent legislation was designed to have a detrimental effect on Trade Unions – by getting involved and being heard and by VOTING, we can work together to help ensure that our way of life and the benefits that Unions provide to ALL Canadians can continue long into the future.
Comments? Thoughts? Please share. Let’s get talking.
Good afternoon, everybody!
It is amazing how much is always going on with the Building Trades. Many locals have golf tournaments throughout the summer, for example. Local 1 just had their tournament last weekend (photos here) and the Boilermaker golf tournament is coming up on August 15. I don’t know how many spots are left, but I know they are going quickly, so stop by here and register. I hope I see you there.
I was lucky enough to participate in the BTA Golf Tournament at the Garrison in support of Prostate Cancer Canada before my official start date. At that tournament, the BTA, with the support of all the participants, raised a whopping $42,000. That money was then added to the money raised at the Do It for Dads Run/Walk on Father’s Day this year. One was held in Calgary and one was held here in Edmonton, and on that day, over $138 000 was raised between the two cities!
Member Locals and the BTA do a lot of work in the community and hold lots of events that not many people outside of our circles know about. That’s something that I am hoping to improve here. We (all of us in the Building Trades) do great things but we don’t brag about it. I think we should. People need to know about all the good that we do.
Two other upcoming events that I have mentioned on our Facebook page and that you should seriously think about attending are the 1st Annual Family Fun Fest being put on by the International Association of Heat & Frost Insulators & Allied Workers Local 110 on Saturday, August 15 (click here for details or have a look through our Facebook feed) and the Solidarity Slugfest on September 12 & 13 at the Okotoks on Deck Recreation Park. Have a look at our Facebook feed or contact Willow Carriere for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org. Six Locals have already signed up and the deadline to register is approaching quickly (August 4) so make sure you register as soon as possible.
There is always a lot going on in our community. Make sure you share the information with me so I can help you promote it. Send the info, with pictures if you have them, to email@example.com. While we are talking about sharing, send me stories about you, how you got into the trades, funny or interesting things that happened to you on the job or anything else you think would be worth sharing. Encourage your friends to do it too. I’ve started to receive submissions already and am looking forward to beginning posting them.
Until next time.
What a full week. Like I mentioned before, I am spending lots of my time meeting some of the awesome people that I get to work with and people who work so hard to contribute to the great things that the BTA and the Local Unions are accomplishing. Last Friday, I stopped by the Sheet Metal Workers conference at West Edmonton Mall and spoke to a few members from across the country. I am always impressed by the high caliber of people that I meet in this role; people who care deeply about the work they do and the people that they choose to work with. The Sheet Metal Workers were no exception.
While there, I also had the pleasure of watching Brigadier-General (Retired) Greg Matte of Helmets to Hardhats present to the Sheet Metal Workers. He is so passionate about the work he does, that it is hard not to get caught up in it with him. Learn more about what H2H does here. We spoke afterwards and he told me how excited he is about the work we are all doing to build a stronger community and to support each other. He said that the work that is being done is so good that he doesn’t even need to market what he does – news outlets come to him! Check out this video from CBC's The National.
Yesterday, I was lucky enough to meet the people of Build Together. Check them out here. Again, what a group of trades professionals who care deeply about the work they do and are working tirelessly to encourage women to pick up tools and join the building trades. I know they all have incredible stories to tell, and soon, you’ll know that too, because I got them to promise (sort of – ok, I asked nicely) to share their stories with me so that I could put them on the BTA website and share them with you. I am looking forward to seeing their stories soon – if you know someone (maybe even you!) who has a story to share, have them contact me and we can get started sharing.