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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

A DAY ON THE JOB - Part 2 of an ongoing series focusing on the skilled trades

Electrical workers keep the city running


Deep in the bowels of the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant there is a constant buzz of construction and repair activity -- electrical workers hard at work doing their part to improve the quality of the wastewater flushed into Lake Ontario.

For members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 353, installing and repairing millions of dollars worth of improvements at one of North America's largest wastewater treatment facilities is not a new experience.
Claudio Luciani of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 353.

In fact, since it was first built in 1910, IBEW electrical workers have been key allies of the City as it has continually invested in technological improvements to keep the waterfront clean.

The Ashbridges Bay plant now has 12 primary and four secondary digesters, with five three-phase 27.6- kilovolt feeders powering the plant that is capable of processing 818,000 cubic metres of wastewater every day. Electrical workers have been responsible for installing miles of conduit and wire, as well integrated process controls.

"It may not be pretty," says Terry Ross , a 14-year member of the IBEW, "but it is important work that helps the City stay clean."

Members of the IBEW will be busy in the plant this summer as Toronto embarks on a $45 million project to refurbish eight digesters.

The Ashbridges Bay plant is just one example of a vast array of skilled work IBEW electrical workers do for the City of Toronto and other municipalities in the GTA. Sports field lighting, community centres, streetlighting, traffic signals, fire halls, police stations and the TTC are municipal properties and assets that are built and repaired by skilled electrical workers.

"We take a lot of pride in the diversity of skills our trade union can offer clients like the City of Toronto," says Joe Fashion, business manager of IBEW 353.

"We go in and do the job, then move on to another. Our affiliated contractors can offer the City fixed, competitive prices, where there is no long-term financial commitment as there is with municipal or utility employees."
Joe Fashion, (right) business manager of IBEW 353, and Roy Taylor, one of the 7,000 plus members of the IBEW.

With employment opportunities provided by the 250-member firms of the Greater Toronto Electrical Contractors Association, the 7,000 plus members of the IBEW are consistently upgrading their skills on the job as new technology is introduced. On top of an 8,000-hour apprenticeship and access to courses at the union Training Centre, electrical workers are among the most highly trained, best qualified in North America.

"This is our advantage," says Fashion, the lead negotiator on behalf of the workers. "We know we are better paid than in-house employees of the City and other clients, but we are more productive and better skilled. We have a 102-year history of proving it."

The City of Toronto has more than 1,900 traffic lights and another 600 pedestrian crosswalk signals, all of which electrical workers will be converting to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Technology called LED (Light Emitting Diode) is being installed in all the city's traffic and pedestrian signals over the next eight years. The conversion to the new technology will provide the city with energy savings of about $1.8 million annually, and will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by five million kilograms.

Conversions to new technology is one of the many skills IBEW electrical workers acquire on the job and in a structured classroom/lab setting.

The Greater Toronto Electrical Contractors Association and the IBEW sponsor an advanced apprenticeship training program that goes well beyond provincial standards. There are more than 1,500 apprentices in various levels of training. The program produces about 250 highly skilled journeymen electrical workers every year.

But the training doesn't stop there. The IBEW state-of-the art Technical Education Centre offers a large and diverse curriculum of courses that allows journeymen to continually upgrade their skills. So when any new technology is introduced, the IBEW and its affiliated contractors are prepared to meet these demands.

"Meeting new challenges is part of our culture and work ethic," Fashion says. "We thrive on innovation and helping our clients save money and improve productivity, while completing projects on schedule and budget."

For more information on a career as an electrical worker visit

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