Executive Director of Building Trades of Alberta shares some insight on unions
Terry Parker became the executive director of Building Trade Alberta this past June. We chatted with him about what he does and his views on unions.
What is your role as the executive director of Building Trades of Alberta?
We’re an umbrella organization for 16 different construction unions that represent roughly 75,000 workers in the construction field across the province. So we represent them on common issues that affect all of the members. So if it’s an individual issue or one that affects a specific union we don’t usually represent them. That’s not our mandate. Our mandate is to represent all of the unions on common concerns. It could be anywhere from political policies coming forward to collective bargaining to safety issues. So as the executive director I oversee all that.
You had the same title in Saskatchewan and recently moved to Alberta to take this position. Why did you decide Alberta?
Personally, it was more of a challenge. There’s more membership here and more issues here of what I could sink my teeth into and actually improve the lives of the people working in the construction sector.
What kind of union issues does Alberta have as opposed to Saskatchewan?
Definitely with the employment and economic issues that are facing Alberta. Also with government relations that are going on here currently and policies that are being put in place. With the passage of new labour legislation here there’s going to be a lot of opportunities to rebuild and rebrand with the members.
What is your most difficult task being the executive director of the BTA?
Personally, it is getting to know a lot of the players that are around the construction industry. I knew a number of them within the union movement coming into Alberta however, there’s still a number of owner reps, contractors, and government officials that I was not familiar with. Some yes, but the vast majority, no.
What is an issue or project that you are working on right now?
Right now we’re looking at procurement legislation. Not for a union only policy. That’s not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for a fair and balanced procurement policy not for the lowest bid, but for the best bid for our workers. The best for the taxpayers dollar.
What made you want to represent building trades workers?
I wanted to represent the people who I was working with. They’re the ones who actually put me forward. When I first started they wanted me to be in that role. They said I had to be on the bargaining committee and then the executive board. I wanted to do it for them. It was on a smaller scale and then it just kept on getting larger and larger. Management always asked me to come work with them for more money, but it wasn’t about the money it was about representing working people.
Having a Bachelors Degree in Political Science would you say you offer a unique perspective on unionized issues?
My intention was to go into law, but that didn’t work out. I would say it does give me a different perspective. When I started out, I never thought that I would be dealing with politics, but on a daily level I’m involved with it continuously. Not just the external politics of municipal, provincial, or federal, but the internal politics within the unions. All of our affiliates are elected so it’s what I’m faced with daily.
Why would someone going into the trades want to join a union?
For a better quality of life and to try to get the most out of being a trades person. It could be financially, for health and welfare, for pension, for safety issues on the job, or even proper representation so they don’t feel like they’re being taken advantage of. There’s also a ton of training benefits as well. Our training facilities in the province here are some of the best in the country.