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International Operating Engineer - Winter 2018

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The quarterly magazine of the International Union of Operating Engineers.

Canadian News

Canadian News Persistence Pays Off in Site C Dam Organizing Drive AS 2017 BEGAN, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 faced major challenges. BC Hydro, a government corporation, had begun construction on a project that represented the largest public expenditure in British Columbia’s history, the Site C Dam. Located just outside of Fort St. John in BC’s northeast corner, the project promised to employ hundreds of Heavy Equipment Operators. value that unions play on construction sites, BC Hydro chose a managed open-site model of construction that demonstrated a clear change in the labour relations model that had been used in dam construction and upgrading in the province of BC for over 50 years. Peace River Hydro Partners (PRHP )had won the main civil contract. At .75B, the contract was the largest Association of Canada (CLAC), and was hiring Heavy Equipment Operators from across Canada. CLAC is widely regarded as an employer-dominated union whose collective agreements undermine those of unions with strong trade union principles such as the IUOE Local 115. They are not affiliated to the Canadian Labour Congress or the BC Federation of Labour, and were suspended January 2017, to change the certification at Peace River Hydro Partners and give the employees the representation that they deserved – representation by IUOE. Understanding the importance of this effort, General President James T. Callahan extended his support, providing both financial and “boots on the ground” assistance for this campaign. At the time, BC had a government headed by Premier Christy Clark, a government that had spent sixteen years attacking worker’s rights and enacting legislation to weaken unions. Site C was no different. Empowered by a government that dismissed the single contract to be awarded on the Site C project. PRHP was a consortium consisting of Samsung, Acciona, and Petrowest, a fledgling company facing serious financial issues. The joint venture had secured a collective agreement with the Christian Labour from the International Trade Union Confederation before withdrawing their membership. To defend the jurisdiction of the IUOE, Local 115 began an aggressive, bottom-up organizing campaign in International Special Representative David De Sousa assisted with a strong commitment organizing workers in temperatures that regularly dipped below -25 Celsius, and worked days that often began at 4:45am and ended after 10:30pm. The campaign was one of the largest in the history of IUOE Local 115, with other IUOE Locals across Canada sending organizers to airports and remote locations within their own provinces to talk to workers from Site C. Unfortunately, instead of granting a new certification, the British Columbia Labour Relations Board decided that the workers should not be given the right to vote on which Union they wanted, despite the fact that 289 workers had signed organizing cards. It would have been easy to feel defeated after such a result, but Local 115 was determined to ensure that the commitment shown by the General President ended with members of the IUOE working at Site C. During and after the organizing drive, IUOE Local 115 conducted a multi-faceted campaign to persuade British Columbians that the BC government’s Site C management approach was bad for local businesses, bad for local First Nations, and bad for all British Columbians. The Local Union staff worked tirelessly to ensure that the BC New Democratic Party formed the next provincial government as a May election grew near; they ensured that Site C remained an election issue, and were rewarded when NDP Premier John Horgan was sworn in on July 18, 2017. During the same period Local 115 positioned itself to take part in the next phase of the Site C project. With bids for the Spillways and Generating Station contract submitted, Premier Horgan ordered BC Hydro to refrain from making an award until his government could review the project. Within weeks, Jessica McDonald, the President and CEO of BC Hydro was replaced, along with the Executive Chair of the BC Hydro Board. After the dust settled, the Generating Station contract was awarded to a consortium (Aecon-Flatiron- Dragados-EBC) committed to a project labour agreement that includes the IUOE, with the government voicing its support for an expanded PLA model that will benefit working people and communities. The efforts of General President Callahan and IUOE Local 115 have ensured that the Operating Engineer work is conducted by IUOE members. When work begins this spring, members of IUOE Local 115 who are dispatched to Site C will accept that work understanding that it was made possible because of the commitment and support of General President Callahan, the IUOE General Executive Board, Local 115 Business Manager Brian Cochrane and all of the dedicated staff and membership that participated in this effort. British Columbians will now be rewarded with a project that is built to the highest standards including the skilled members of IUOE Local 115. 16 INTERNATIONAL OPERATING ENGINEER WINTER 2018 17

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