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IBEW Local 586 Re-Elects John Bourke as Business Manager

July 31, 2020

“I’m very thankful to the membership for giving me their support and their confidence,” said Bourke. The Ottawa local announced its election results on June 12, 2020, with Bourke receiving a strong mandate.

Other returning executives received strong mandates as well, including Braydon Potter, who was elected as president. Trainer Colin Guilas was elected as vice-president, Brett MacLean was acclaimed as recording secretary, and Kurt Metz was re-elected as treasurer for the new three-year term. The members of the new executive board are Brian Lane, Jason Lacombe, John Harrison, Kyle Blair, Rich Bowie, and Thomas Daly.

Bourke commented on the overall excellent calibre of candidates running for election. “I’m grateful to all the members who put their names forward in the election to keep our democratic process strong. I’d also like to thank the office staff for their support, including Angèle Harvey, Micheline Taillefer, Stephanie Spenard, and all of our executive officers.”

Rising to the Challenge of Difficult Times

As in many areas of the province, construction in Ottawa has experienced a slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Right now there’s lots of work lined up, but it’s not starting. At the beginning of the lockdown, many of our members were laid off. While most are back at work now, there are some who are still waiting,” said Bourke.

The situation has affected Bourke’s priorities for the coming term. “First and foremost, I want to get the membership back to work and fully employed,” he said. “As always, we must also ensure that health and safety stays a top priority.”

One of the biggest challenges facing the construction industry as a whole is how to continue to work. Some projects have been held back, while others have slowed down to accommodate the need to maintain safe physical distancing.

As rules and conditions continue to change, Local 586 has been using their website, Facebook page, and monthly newsletter to keep members informed.

“We’re really pushing the members to let us know if conditions aren’t right so we can get them fixed,” said Bourke. “It’s about keeping our families safe.”

The pandemic has also made it more difficult to give back to the community.

Bourke commented, “We’ve done our best to respond to causes who have requested donations. For example, we have continued our tradition of yearly donations to the Ottawa Mission and the Ottawa Food Bank. Unfortunately, the annual ball tournament that we hold to raise funds for Sobriety House has had to be cancelled, but the Eastern Ontario and Western Québec Provincial Building Trades have donated $15,000, thanks to the efforts of Gabriel Chauvin.”

Building on a Successful 2019

Bourke has other goals for the coming term, including continuing to organize the electrical sector in Ottawa. “We have a strong organizing team. Kurt Metz, Jason Lacombe, and Rui Vieira had a very successful year in 2019, organizing companies like 613 Electric, Bright Electric, Capital Electrical Controls, PSL Electric and Fox Electric.”

There is a lot of work in the pipeline for Local 586, but one of the projects Bourke finds most exciting is the renovations work on Parliament Hill.

We’ve completed wiring on the West Block of the House of Commons, and have started work on the Centre Block project. This will be one of the largest construction projects in Canada, and is expected to take ten to fifteen years,” he said.

“We’re very proud to be a part of the effort to modernize this historic site; which involves upgrades to the HVAC and electrical systems while preserving the historical aspects of the building.”

A Great Trade

Looking back on his years on the tools, Bourke said, “The electrical trade has been good to me. There have been lean times, but I was able to travel to places like Oshawa and Thunder Bay to work. I love the job security, there’s lots to learn, and it’s a great trade!”

Bourke started his career as an HVAC technician, but soon started looking for a career that provided steady employment year-round.

“My brother was an electrician with the City of Ottawa, and he recommended that I apply with contractors in the area,” said Bourke. “I started as an apprentice in Arnprior as part of a two-person shop, wiring houses.”

Like many non-union apprentices, Bourke found that his wages were low. He learned about Local 586 during his research into unionized work.

“I walked into the union hall, and, luckily for me, things were very busy in the residential sector. The next week I started with the union, my wages doubled, and I was earning towards my pension and benefits. My family was very young at that time, and I had a disabled son, so that made a huge difference to us.”

Bourke earned his certificate of qualification in 1987, and since then has served many roles in his local’s executive, starting as a board member and then serving a term as president.

“James Barry asked if I would work with him, so in 2002 I became an organizer (which I did for seven and a half years), and then became a dispatcher. Halfway through 2015, I stepped in as interim business manager when James joined the CCO.”

Since then, this is his second elected term.

Commenting on his history, Bourke said, “I’m grateful to my local for the life it has given me, and I’ve always had a strong desire to help 586 grow.”

Looking Ahead

While it has been tough to hold events due to the coronavirus lockdown, in September Local 586 plans to hold an outdoor movie night so the members can socialize while observing a safe physical distance. Plans are also underway to start up regular meetings again.

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