New Year's Message - From Robert Blakely - Canada's Building Trades Union

Each year, as a prelude to the upcoming New Year, I tried to think of something relevant, uplifting and important in terms of where we have been over the old year or where we are going in the near future. This has been very self-evident in some years and difficult and others. This year is a case in point; we’ve certainly had some high points and there have been events that could actually qualify as much lower points. 

We unveiled our Monument, some governments have moved to modernize, liberalize and support the values that come from union construction. Unfortunately, there are a couple of governments that would like to move in a much more retrograde fashion. Our industry has grown by nearly 100 % over the past 20 years and looks like growth is going to plateau for at least the mid-term. Against that backdrop we are going to have to replace 248,000 craft as the Baby Boom Generation goes into retirement. We don’t lack for challenges! 

What does 2018 hold for us? It is a mug’s game to try and predict the future but it is a very smart thing to prepare for the eventualities that we think are likely to come to pass. I think we can count on a continuation of the progressive policies of the federal government and we can look forward to being on a substantial amount of the Infrastructure work that the federal program will create for its own use and will kick-start such work for provincial, territorial or municipal governments. This is work that many local unions have not engaged in in a long time, whether it was a market shift where industrial work took all of our attention or a concentration of contractors to a smaller and smaller base does not matter; in many jurisdictions this is now the only game in town and we need to be in game and winning.  That may mean doing things we would rather not do like meeting the wage market that is not the same as our jealously guarded industrial rate. The time for courage is now; get back into the market and wages will recover there.  Stay frozen to an unrealistic reality and our members will vote with their feet!

Liberalized labour laws mean a return to card-check certifications in many provinces and federally.  There is a political climate that supports organizing ---- that means getting out and doing what we once did best, organizing the unorganized!

Finally, we need to keep a weather eye on the retirements and people leaving the trade for other reasons.  Please remember no matter what we do, what the work market is, what job might not start that we were counting on, our Baby Boom members are going to leave and we have to replace them.  If you look at the pool of people we will have to choose from (and we will be in the same boat as nearly every other institution and industry in Canada) we will have no choice but to look to a much more diverse work force than that that you and I joined so many years ago. We are fools if we don’t make a virtue out of necessity, diversity brings strength and diverse workers bring many gifts to our workplaces.  There will be more to accommodating diversity than just making a place for a woman, indigenous person, a youth or new Canadian.  It means being serious about Respect at Work, we don’t act like jerks on steroids at church, in the parent teacher interview or any other occasion, so why is okay at work??  We will get to where our workplace and union halls are ‘diversity friendly’ when our best guys (and gals) and our leadership no longer tolerates bad behaviour and no longer stands aside when bad behaviour occurs. I am not asking for political correctness, just common decency. We need to be the ally of the person being bullied or treated badly by stepping up and doing the right thing.  It is the least we can do.

On behalf of the Chair, the Canadian Executive Board and the staff of the Canadian Office we wish you the Best of the Season and our hopes for a safe, prosperous and Happy 2018.