Stronger Than Ever


ecaoBy Anna Guy

Over its lengthy history, ECAO has been committed to addressing the needs of the industry by providing a variety of services directly to the membership, and by making representations on behalf of the entire industry to government and industry colleagues. Its success has been due to the support and active participation of the industry.

The Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario (ECAO) has represented the management interests of the entire electrical/communications contracting industry in Labour, Government and Public Relations for 70 years.

Though much has changed throughout its seven decades, one thing remains the same: ECAO contractors and their IBEW partners across Ontario are the recognized industry leaders in delivering safe, stable, predictable, high quality electrical/communications construction and maintenance services to meet the needs of their Owner clients.

New Leadership

In December, 2017, the ECAO’s 600 members welcomed a new Executive Director Graeme Aitken, whose 30-plus years of experience in the unionized construction industry across Canada—with a particular focus in the Province of Ontario—will provide a unique foundation for his new position.

Aitken has worked in almost every part of the industry in one form or another. As he was getting his journeyman ticket, he served on the local joint apprentice committee and election team for local office elections, moving on to become an organizer for Local 105 (in Hamilton, of which he is still a proud member), Local 303 (in St. Catharines), and Local 804 (in central Ontario).

Seeing the amount of legal service required by many of the Locals, Aitken went back to school and became a lawyer, practising in labour law and, then, representing the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers for fifteen years.

Aitken says he is looking forward to continuing the legacy of ECAO’s good work. He notes there hasn’t been a work stoppage in over 20 years—a streak protecting the rights and securities of Ontario’s contractors, workers, and clients. He plans on continuing this streak. Nonetheless, his new vision for the organization is to create a stronger relationship amongst what he calls an increasingly diverse member and customer base.

The ECAO membership consists of bona fide electrical contractors in a contractual relationship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and there are eleven local-area Electrical Contractor’s Associations (ECA) affiliated with ECAO, two sector-specific groups, and numerous industry product and service suppliers.

Building Community

“It’s a large landscape,” says Aitken. “My Number One goal is to build our community, to build the electrical contractors, labour partners, and affiliated-partners community.”

Traditionally, says Aitken, the two have been viewing shared issues through management or labour specific lenses. By bringing them closer together, Aitken sees efficiencies in negotiations, payments, and projects; ultimately, an increase in work. “There is tremendous opportunity for our members by building our community to extend our reach further than it’s been before, and to demonstrate what a giving charitable community we are. I am excited about the opportunity to be able to pilot the ship with guidance of the board and executives,” says Aitken. “Along with the diversely talented office group we are building, we will work to provide for our members best possible opportunities in education, excellent labour relations advice, and a community that services and provides the paramount benefits to our members and partners.”

Along with this objective, Aitken and his team of Executives will increase the ECAO’s presence in the industry. “We were established principally for collective bargaining purposes, and there is no doubt that has remained the main driving force behind the organization,” he says, “but we also provide labour relations advice, develop industry relations on matters of provincial and national concern to electrical contractors, advocate the interests of electrical contractors to government, such as; licensing, certification, and apprenticeships.”

The majority of members are in the Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional (ICI) sectors, with non-ICI sectors represented by residential, communications, high voltage work, etc. Clients run just as wide a gamut, and include customers such as the TTC, Hydro One, developers, hospitals, airports, municipalities, and local distribution companies.

“Working collaboratively to provide the best product we can to my members’ customers will allow our ECAO contractors to employ more of our partners’ members,” says Aitken. By representing and championing the interests of the electrical contracting industry, the ECAO will continue its legacy of being a strong presence in the industry.