By Anna Guy
If you travel to or live in Alberta and have driven to work, taken a bus, sipped a glass of Whisky, or a thousand other things in between, you are the beneficiary of the work of a member of IUOE Local 955.
Established in 1948, Local 955 is one of the largest IUOE locals in North America, and the largest trade union supporting hoisting and portable and stationary equipment operators in Alberta. Local 955 has four offices in Alberta: Edmonton (head office), Fort McMurray, Calgary and Edson.
“Our members help Alberta thrive,” says Chris Flett, Business Manager, speaking of the vast contributions to Canada of the IUOE Local 955. “They’re the backbone of our oilfield, mining, construction and transportation industries. They build and maintain roads, pipelines and refineries in our towns and cities.” In fact, Local 955 members are a part of more than 100 agreements in place across Alberta.
“We are literally building our communities,” says Flett, proudly. “We build, operate, and maintain the infrastructure that we all depend on. We are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to ensure that the services you depend on are there when you need them. We are amongst the first “trade(s)” in on a job and one of the last to leave a job.”
Local 955’s goal is to create safe and harmonious workplaces for members. Flett strongly believes in a safe work environment for everyone; during his tenor as a Job Steward then Chief Job Steward, Chris created an awareness of safety in the workplace among fellow Members. Chris’s dedication, skills and experience gave him the confidence to run for the position of Local 955’s Business Manager in 2017.
“We believe safety is a top priority. We offer our members a variety of specialized training. Our collective agreements ensure specific tasks are completed by specific tradespeople to avoid accidents caused by workers attempting tasks without proper training. These agreements also ensure our members’ work is not awarded to other trades or non-unionized workers.”
Flett says Local 955 management is focusing on three top priorities of the Local’s management. “One is creating the best possible employment opportunities for our members through Collective Bargaining, Government Lobbying and Partnerships with our Contract Partners,” he says.
“Local 955 negotiates the most reasonable compensation for our members,” he says, “and priorities for negotiation are wages, benefits, working conditions, vacation time, workplace health and safety. Diversifying our membership by creating opportunities for under-represented groups like women, BIPOC etc.” is another priority.”
Local 955 has also been putting significant effort into developing opportunities for its Contractor Partners. “Through Business Relationships, we have helped secure our partners’ future and, most importantly, quality work for our membership,” says Flett.
Local 955 members know firsthand the benefits of membership to take care of their safety, future, and family. “Not only does it afford members access to the highest skilled, best-trained employees in the world, but our members have a culture of safety ingrained into their fabric,” says Flett. “We have an incredibly skilled team working tirelessly to advance your interests, working tirelessly to improve the working conditions and wages.”
Member are also part of a proud Organization (Union) with direct democracy on all decisions, he continues.
When asked how is the workforce changing, and how is Local 955 adapting, Flett says, “Training is a huge focus, and we are not only training for the skills of today; we are advancing our craft and ensuring that we are on the cutting edge of any new technology or process. We have tirelessly been advocating for work-life balance. We have been participating in skills programs in order to showcase the work we do to the younger generations (before they hit the workforce). Inclusion and diversity aren’t just buzzwords to us— they are the key to our future success.
IUOE Local 955 members make Canada proud. “We are so much more than most expect—we are proud, strong and diverse,” says Flett.
“We are blessed with the responsibility to represent members in health care, construction, mining, maintenance, and so much more. We proudly represent members making whiskey or those creating yeast. We represent members who are making the mattresses that you sleep on nightly. Or the Busses you ride to get to work daily, we build and maintain the roads that you travel daily. We used to have to bring in the highest skilled operators from around the world to complete some of the most intricate mega projects— now IUOE Local 955 members are the “experts” travelling the world and building the infrastructure that the world relies upon. Our Crane Operators have reached heights never before dreamed. We are everything you think we are, and so much more.”