IBEW Local 530 – 77 Years of Powering Sarnia’s Economy

IBEW Local 530IBEW Local 530 Sarnia Labour Day Parade in Sarnia/Lambton was chartered on September 3, 1941. This Labour Day marks their 77th anniversary.

“I’m very proud that we’re holding our own,” says Business Manager Mick Cataford.

“Everything’s going well – we’re very busy, we’re producing some great electricians, and our new training centre should be opening this fall.”

Local 530, with about 500 members, is a smaller local that doesn’t yet have its own full time training director. But training is clearly a priority for Cataford.

“We want to keep topping up our skills, we want to be the best,” he says.

A Bright Horizon

“I was on the tools for many years,” says Cataford. “There were some slow times in the 1980s and 1990s, and I travelled a lot. But we’re almost always at full employment these days.”

Because Local 530 has always done a lot of industrial electrical work, many of the members are dual ticketed as 447A (instrumentation and control) electricians as well as 309A (construction and maintenance) electricians. All apprentices are working on becoming dual-ticketed as well. Local 530 also includes members who are network cabling experts and powerline workers.

But they’ve been expanding into other markets in the past few years, and are doing more residential and commercial wiring than ever. Members have teamed up with contractors Ogilvie Electric on the renovation of the Drawbridge Inn, which is scheduled to re-open in November as the Insignia Hotel.

Currently, Local 530 takes in 12 to 15 apprentices every year through their main intake process, with the most recent class including one Canadian Armed Forces veteran (although this wasn’t through the Helmets to Hardhats program). Organizing efforts top up the number of apprentices to one hundred.

Wiring Sarnia’s Most Important Facilities

Chemical manufacturing is the main pillar of Sarnia’s economy. The area is home to 40% of Canada’s petrochemical industry, with over 60 refineries and plants located in an area nicknamed Chemical Valley. The local sees a lot of work in construction and upgrades of facilities.

With so much industry in the area, power generation is also important. Local 530 electricians have wired most of the important power generation and industrial plants in the Sarnia-Lambton area.

Local 530 has been involved in the construction of Canada’s largest natural gas co-generation facility, the TransAlta Sarnia Regional Cogeneration Plant. Other success stories include the St. Clair Energy Centre and the Greenfield Energy Centre.

One of the projects they’re proudest of is the Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant for First Solar. When the Phase II expansion was completed in 2010, the Sarnia plant was one of the biggest solar plants in North America, and is still one of the largest in Canada.

Work on a $2.2 billion expansion project for Nova Chemicals is about to start and will be continuing for the next few years. Once completed, the new plant will bring 150 permanent jobs to the area, producing the type of recyclable plastic used for food containers and other everyday products.

Doing Good in the Community

IBEW Local 530 volunteer Celebration of Lights
An IBEW Local 530 member volunteering at the Celebration of Lights.

Every year, volunteers from the local, including the Next Gen and Retiree committees, play a vital role in wiring the Celebration of Lights, a major source of tourism for the area.

Another important community event in their calendar is the annual MS Bike fundraiser, in which teams cycle from Grand Bend to London. The Local 530 team is called the Crafty Radlers, and in 2018 they raised almost $15,000 for multiple sclerosis research, including both online and offline donations.

This year’s team included not only Cataford and other 530 members, but ECAO contractor Gregg Mellon from Mellon Inc. and his wife Kathy Ure. “Hopefully next year we can grow the team to the biggest ever,” says Cataford.

MS Bike Crafty Radlers
The Crafty Radlers team from the 2018 MS Bike.

About this year’s ride, Cataford commented on the incredible level of commitment shown by his team. “One member of the team was in an accident, broke a bone in his hand, but still kept on riding.”

Other important community fundraisers for Cataford and the local include Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, the Big Bike for Heart and Stroke, and the MS Carnations of Hope Campaign.

Team Effort

The members of Local 530 are no strangers to hard work and team efforts – after all this is the Local that won this year’s Ontario Provincial Council hockey tournament, and many others in years past.

“We like our hockey,” comments Cataford.

Is there anyone Cataford would like to thank? “We have a great group here at Local 530,” he says. “We’ve just taken on a new apprentice coordinator, Shelby Cope, and new dispatcher Rebecca [last name withheld by request].”

While the 77th anniversary of the local will be quietly enjoyed by Cataford and the members, a celebration event is being planned for the grand opening of the new training centre in the fall.

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