Serving as your Business Manager for the past 6-plus years has been the privilege of a lifetime. I’m thankful every day for the opportunity to represent the more than 12,500 members of IUOE Local 955 and to watch this union grow.
As a member, Business Agent and Business Manager, I’ve been witness to some incredible things in my time. But celebrating the 75th anniversary of the signing of our Charter, and the 50th anniversary of our Pension Trust Fund with members across the province, has truly been a high point I’ll have with me for the rest of my life. I’m sure most of you will too.
What an honour it was to be in Fort McMurray, Calgary and Edmonton throughout the summer with you for barbeques, a golf tournament and carnival-style family fun events. It was incredible to share in comradery and celebration with good food, games, equipment simulators, Hunter from the Edmonton Oilers, Spike from the Edmonton Elks, music and much more. What a memory for us all.
Our anniversary gala and long-service awards in September saw more than 300 come together at River Cree in Enoch, AB, where many members received 20-year to 60-year awards for their loyal service to Local 955.
We also had dignitaries and elected officials from all levels of government join us at the gala to celebrate our members and our milestones. Edmonton mayor, Amarjeet Sohi delivered a well-received speech praising Local 955 members and our many years dedicated to building and maintaining Edmonton and other municipalities around the province.
In the summer, IUOE Local 955 received a proclamation from Mayor Sohi declaring Aug. 1, 2023, “IUOE Local 955 Day” in the city of Edmonton. The proclamation now hangs in Edmonton’s union hall for all to see and I encourage you to take a look.
I have to say, the most thrilling moment of the gala celebration was when I, along with Lyall Nash, President of TESTCO Western Ltd., announced a 5-per-cent increase to the pensions of all 955 members in good-standing. The first pension increase came Oct. 1 and was retroactive to Jan. 1, 2023. I’m sure you were thrilled too when you checked your bank account this fall.
And while that announcement was monumental, we weren’t done with pension good news yet.
A special event with more than 100 retirees, their families, members and more at the end of November rounded off the 50th anniversary year of the pension trust, when the fund delivered its one billionth pension dollar to long-time member, Oliver Lepps in a ceremony at 955 headquarters in Edmonton.
These moments were very special and ones I know would not have been possible without the hard-work, dedication, and foresight of those who came before us. To the pension trustees who took the crucial step of starting our plan a half century ago, and all those in between who helped us prosper, I can’t thank you enough. The number of members and their families this pension has supported after a lifetime of hard work is immense and is another big reason IUOE Local 955 remains one of the largest, strongest, and proudest unions in western Canada.
But above the anniversary celebrations, throughout the year Local 955 was hard at work to secure industry-leading collective agreements in several sectors we operate in, while forging new paths and relationships with stakeholders in industry and all levels of government that will help our union flourish.
The positive working relationships we have developed over the past 12 months have shone a new light on Local 955 in a way that hasn’t been seen before. Elected decision makers see the value of the work our members do and understand the critical role we all play in building, maintaining and servicing Alberta. From support for the industries our members operate in, the skill and safety Local 955ers bring to worksites, to the world-class training Local 955 provides at our Budd Coutts Apprenticeship and Education Centre, our message is being delivered.
Throughout the year we spoke with and met several key officials, including Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland; Federal Labour Minister, Seamus O’Regan; Federal Opposition Leader, Pierre Poilievre; Premier Danielle Smith; Minister of Advanced Education, Rajan Sawhney; Minister of Energy, Brian Jean; Minister of Jobs, Matt Jones; Provincial Opposition Leader, Rachel Notley; Edmonton Mayor, Amarjeet Sohi; Councillor; Mike Janz and many more.
In November, I was pleased to chair a very positive labour roundtable at Local 955 headquarters in Edmonton with leaders from several building trades unions and Minister of Advanced Education, Rajan Sawhney, Assistant Deputy Minister of Skilled Trades and Professions, Mike Fernandez and more on the value union training centres can bring to apprenticeship and industry training in Alberta. I very much look forward to growing our partnership with this key ministry while fostering our political relationships and navigating the positive outcomes as a result.
Improved focus and a refreshed strategic approach to social media, communications and marketing has helped 955 tell its own story, boost brand awareness, and elevate our overall presence in the consciousness of Albertans; including members, potential members, students, employers, elected officials, the public, media and others. I hope it’s added to the pride you feel in Local 955 too.
From our partnership with major brands like the Edmonton Oilers and Elks, to published opinion articles in the Edmonton Journal and other outlets, to giving tens of thousands back to the communities we live and work in, our story is being told and our good reputation is growing.
This amplified engagement and presence has increased our capital in many areas and helps in everything from negotiations to organizing, training, government relations, building solidarity and more.
I’ve always said, IUOE Local 955 members are the backbone of Alberta. Swimming through the last 75 years of our history and seeing our successes over 2023 has only strengthened this resolve.
Our members have seen a lot over 955’s lifetime: the birth of the oilsands; incredible advancements in equipment technology; 12 Alberta premiers; challenging infrastructure projects; catastrophic wildfires and floods; several economic booms and busts; changing political environments; difficult labour laws and a lot more. But through it all, one thing remains steadfast: Local 955’s ability to navigate and endure. This is a true testament to our membership.
From those who helped build our local, to those who help steer the ship today, you are the reason for Local 955’s success and you are the reason our next 75 years in this great province are secure.
I’m incredibly excited to see what the future holds. Local 955 leadership remains laser-focused on getting members the fair deals they deserve, gaining market share, boosting our membership, growing our stakeholder relationships and being industry leaders when it comes to adapting to new economic, social and political realities.
With your help, we will do these things together and be even stronger. Here’s to a prosperous 2024 and a powerful next 75 years.
Chris Flett, Business Manager, IUOE Local 955