The latest employment numbers are in and promise good times for unionized plumbers, pipe fitters and welders in the Ottawa area of the ICI sector, members of United Association (UA) Local 71.
AU Local 71 Business Manager Angus Maisonneuve reported that the steady growth in membership and hours worked over the past decade has accelerated over the past three years.
Reported member hours are tracked annually by the Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) Ottawa and AU Local 71. The most recent data shows a 75% increase in man-hours over the past decade, a 31% increase between 2016 and 2021, and a 26% increase between 2019 and 2021.
“There have never been so many cranes in the Ottawa skyline,” Maisonneuve said. “Our construction industry in Ottawa is booming.
“To put that into perspective, in 2011 we reported 74,000 hours, and the number grew to 1.3 million in 2021.”
Local 71 now has 1,453 members as of August 2022.
Maisonneuve attributed the continued increase in membership to several reasons, including that UA trades are seen as increasingly attractive, the union is negotiating hard at the bargaining table, there are good benefits and pensions, the UA training center is modern and has recently been expanded two years ago, UA has partnered well with project owners and MCA contractors, and many projects require the specialized skills of UA members. AU.
“There is a lot of work there. We are hiring in record numbers,” he said.
A major project for AU members in Ottawa is the $1.8 billion energy services acquisition program and energy services modernization initiative undertaken by Public Works and Government Services Canada.
The project will upgrade five energy plant sites in the National Capital Region that provide heating and cooling to more than 80 buildings in Ottawa and represents the first conversion in North America from an extensive steam system to a electric for cooling and low temperature hot water for heating.
The work is in the hands of a consortium made up of Engie Services Canada, PCL Constructors Canada and Black and McDonald. Completion is scheduled for 2025.
“We are removing the old steam lines for miles in the tunnels and installing new chilled and low-temperature hot water lines,” Maisonneuve said of the technically sophisticated work. “Our skills and safety training are constantly evolving. Our members undergo continuous training. They are always equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to manage the evolution of technology. »
Members are also now experts on platforms such as Virtual Design Construction (VDC).
“VDC is becoming an industry standard,” Maisonneuve said.
“A model designer will model a complete mechanical system from scratch on their computer, then send it to site for manufacturing. It saves time and money. »
There are also plenty of jobs on the Confederation Line LRT project in Ottawa, with piping and new plumbing systems installed at each of the stations, as well as plenty of school board work with the opening of new schools and renovations.
“Anyone who wants to work is working,” Maisonneuve said, noting that members are working at full capacity. “It was unprecedented. We have never seen anything like it. »
Maisonneuve said the local is aware of the broader threats facing the industry, with factors including supply chain disruptions, a possible recession and escalating costs, but at this stage these issues had no impact on workloads.
“We listen to the news and we hear all kinds of things there, but it’s all out of our control,” he said.
The key to long-term stability is to work closely with project owners and contractors in the region to ensure that the union is able to provide sufficient numbers of workers with the skills needed to manage the flow of future projects.
“We are working closely with our partners at the Mechanical Contractors Association of Ottawa to find the people we need to meet future demands,” Maisonneuve said. “We’ve invested about $3-5 million over the past five years in training.
UA signed a new three-year contract in the spring with Maisonneuve as chief negotiator, with the members getting a 13% pay raise over three years.
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