By Jack Kazmierski
Special to The Toronto Sun
Acting as a uniting force and as a voice for construction workers in Ontario, the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario (PBCTCO) pushes forward on many fronts for the benefit of its members.
"We're an umbrella organization for the construction trade unions in the province of Ontario," explains Patrick Dillon, business manager and secretary/treasurer. "We have fourteen international unions representing everyone from pipe fitters to electricians, brick layers, etc. -- all the trades."
The purpose of the PBCTCO is to co-ordinate the efforts of its members and translate their views on a variety of issues into one articulate message.
This is an essential step, especially when the unions want to get a particular message across. For example, if all 14 unions were to lobby the government individually, with each one trying to present its own agenda, the entire process could prove to be frustrating for all involved.
On the other hand, if all 14 unions were to sit down together and decide as a group what message they need to convey to the government, the message would be sure to get across.
"We hammer the issues out amongst ourselves and take a position," Dillon says. "Then we approach the government with one united voice."
The PBCTCO also acts as a communicator when the unions want to appeal to other audiences. For example, they're now trying to show the public how much revenue the government loses every time a construction project is paid for "under the table."
"You'll hear ads on the radio ... talking about the billions of (tax) dollars that could be used for health care and education," Dillon says. "We're trying to raise public awareness of the issue because the government just won't deal with it."
Many of the projects the PBCTCO is involved with focus on future benefits for its members. For example, Dillon sits on the board of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, which, he says, is "the largest experimental project outside of the space station, in the world."
"We're trying to attract this project to Darlington, Ont. This would be a 10-year construction project employing about 3,000 construction workers, followed by a 20-year operating phase.
"Along with the operating phase would come engineers, scientists and technologists from all over the world. The spin-off for Ontario and Canada, on the technology side, would be immeasurable."
With the PBCTCO involved in so many projects, and on so many fronts, Dillon believes the trades contribute significantly to the strength of Ontario's economy.
"We build the bridges, tunnels, hospitals, the infrastructure for the province and the country," he says. "As we do that, we train the next generation of construction workers using the apprenticeship model. We also pay taxes while we're working, and since construction workers are well paid, we end up paying a lot in taxes to the government."
(Jack Kazmierski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a Toronto-based freelance writer and editor.)
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