Sisters, brothers and friends,
Well, we did it. We made it to the end of 2020, a year swallowed by a virus that’s upended the status quo and wreaked havoc on everything from our health-care systems to our economies.
History will remember this year as one of the most difficult and trying times in generations. However, I’d also like to think of it as a year where the importance of solidarity was emphasized and adapting to struggle highlighted the importance of coming together to protect each other and our institutions.
It’s also underlined the significant role front-line workers play in ensuring our society functions. From health-care workers to grocery clerks and the truckers and suppliers who’ve kept us fed and stocked up, a huge thank you for the work you’ve done, and you continue to do.
That being said, I’d also like to thank each and every one of the more than 60,000 Building Trades of Alberta members and their 18 Alberta local unions for continuing to provide essential construction and maintenance services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The work you do is vital to the health of our economy and the safe operation of Alberta’s refineries, pipelines, complexes and more.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the way BTA executive, leadership and staff have come together is also something I’m very proud of. As the virus began to spread in communities and jobsites throughout Alberta, BTA quickly collaborated with owners and contractors, as well as the federal and provincial governments, to establish industry-leading protocols and procedures to help keep workers as safe as possible.
This collaboration and communication with stakeholders continues as we all navigate an ever-changing situation in an effort to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our workforce and the industries they operate in.
And while COVID-19 demanded much of this year’s attention, we were also busy in many other areas.
An increased focus on strategic business development, communications and stakeholder relations throughout the year strengthened several working relationships with existing owners, contractors and clients. New associations are also being fostered all the time, and I’m looking forward to what this will mean for business in 2021.
In addition to the client community, BTA’s relations with all levels of government over the past 12 months increased tremendously. And while we will not always agree with government – and those disagreements are made known – consistent efforts to build relationships with decision makers to ensure members’ needs are put first will continue to be a top priority.
In fact, this relationship building with government helped lead to a significant development for BTA in 2020. Division 7.1, which upon proclamation, will enable BTA affiliates to negotiate project labour agreements as the Building Trades of Alberta directly with contractors, clients and owners. This will allow affiliates the ability to work in areas of the market we were unable to before.
This year also saw Building Trades of Alberta introduce its own Indigenous outreach program called Path Forward, which aims to attract more young Indigenous Albertans to a rewarding career in the unionized skilled trades.
The campaign, which launched on June 21, coincided with National Indigenous Peoples Day and stars young Indigenous role models, Ethan Bear of the Edmonton Oilers; Billy Morin, Treaty Six Grand Chief and Jasmin Smith of Ironworkers Local Union 725.
The emotional campaign video has garnered a lot of attention world-wide since it was released. If you haven’t seen it you can view it, and learn more about Path Forward, at www.btapathforward.ca. Stay tuned for Path Forward phase two and three, which will focus on successful Indigenous BTA journeypersons and retirees, soon.
I’m also very proud of the Member Wellness Program BTA launched in November with partners Morneau Shepell. The pilot project, a first for BTA, focuses on helping those within the unionized building trades get assistance and treatment for substance abuse issues and emphasises a safe, quick return to work. Right now, the pilot program includes Alberta Regional Council of Carpenters and Allied Workers and Ironworkers Local 720. We look forward to expanding the program in the new year.
So, as 2021 approaches, I assure you BTA will continue to build relationships and advocate for the job-creating projects that put our people to work. Projects like Keystone XL, Green Line LRT, Transpod, IPL, DOW and more all continue to be on our radar. We will keep working with governments, investors, owners, contractors, community groups and others to do all we can to get these projects moving forward, so members can get to work.
Remember, you can keep up with all things BTA at, www.bta.ca, throughout the year. Also, give us a like or follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
With that, please take care of yourself and those around you, and here’s to a better 2021 for us all.
Executive Director, Building Trades of Alberta