As of April 8, 2018 Local 804 will be 76 years old. After last year’s big 75th anniversary celebration, the focus in 2018 is on building its membership in terms of training and organizing.
Originally chartered in 1942, IBEW Local 804 now represents 1,329 members. With several new projects expected to start in summer 2018, Business Manager Mark Watson anticipates more demand for his local’s services than ever, and a need for more recruitment.
Watson has also been finding more ways to take advantage of new technology and tools that can serve his existing membership better.
“Last year we launched a new web-based app for our members to get information on upcoming jobs, and give them the ability to bid on those jobs right from their phones,” says Watson. “This new technology has provided greater transparency and access to information for our members and they absolutely love it.”
Training Program Improvements
As with all IBEW locals, providing the most intensive training in the electrical industry has always been a priority. With the recent completion of the new training hall in 2015, the focus now turns to taking the programs to the next level.
“Our educational standards are already well above the provincial levels for new apprentices for math, English, and physics,” says Watson. “But we’ve also created a new aptitude test for candidates to help ensure that we attract young people who will make great apprentices and future electricians.”
Apprentices will also experience some of their training through an online course. “Our new program is in its infancy right now, and we’re still making adjustments, but we think this additional learning will really help us maintain our edge,” says Watson.
Watson and his team are keen to make new investments on training equipment whenever possible. “We’re really excited about the two new 34’ elevated work platforms we’ve just purchased. They really help in in both our apprenticeship and journeyperson training programs, and it will save money not having to rent them anymore.”
The elevated platforms help deliver an essential hands-on experience, as do the courses in which apprentices learn how to drive forklifts and skid-steers.
Redoubling Organizing Efforts
Another priority for Watson in the past year has been organizing.
“I’m very proud of the gains we’ve made in the residential sector. In the tri-city area, we have captured about 70% of the residential market. I’ve also seen increasing interest in organizing in the ICI (industrial, commercial, and institutional) sector.”
In late spring Local 804 will be welcoming organizers from all across the province to join them in a “boots on the ground” blitz of construction job sites across Kitchener-Waterloo and the surrounding areas.
Through the cooperation of the CCO and other local business managers across the province, the IBEW will have the ability to visit a large number of construction projects in a single day. This will get people talking, spark interest, and lead to more organizing opportunities in the future.
Recent and Future Projects
Local 804 has been working at near-capacity for the past year, having recently completed the electrical work for the GrandLinq rail transit system. “Our part was completed on time and on budget. The rail system is all ready to go.” Watson adds wryly, “but the public can’t use it just yet because the delivery of the actual trains has been delayed.”
804 is getting ready to start work on the new Grove’s Memorial Hospital in Fergus this year for the contracting firm Univex. They will be partnering with Modern Niagara to create the building automation controls (BAS).
Other prospects on the horizon include upgrades for the Bruce Power Generation Station, which currently supplies 32% of Ontario’s electricity and is embarking on a 6-unit refurbishment program.
Supporting Habitat for Humanity and Other Worthy Causes
In the past 12 years, a team of dedicated 804 retirees has wired over 60 homes for Habitat for Humanity. This charity provides a way for low income families to own their own home by removing the burden of mortgage interest.
The Next Gen members for Local 804 have also been consistent volunteers with local Food Bank drives. Currently, they are competing in a local Canstruction event at the Conestoga Mall. Volunteers collect canned goods, and stack them in eye-catching structures to raise awareness for local hunger. Once the event is over, all of the canned goods are donated.
Working Towards a Prosperous Future
While the last few years have seen an uptick in the workload, Watson sees demand increasing even further. “Personally, I am really excited about the work opportunities in the next few years,” says Watson.