Published On: Wednesday, 03 January 2018

IMIRA Reorganization Brings Services Home for Island Tradespeople

IMIRA Reorganization Brings Services Home for Island Tradespeople
Members of the IMIRA Board of Directors include (l-r): Todd Lindahl, Robert Hope, Tony Elsdon, Dave Erb, Garth Johnstone, Eric Linquist, Corry Belcourt, and Wes Lageri. Missing from the photo is Russ Hepworth.

VANCOUVER ISLAND – Education and administration will come closer to home for the island’s booming mechanical and industrial sector, thanks to a pending reorganization and expansion of the Island Mechanical Industrial Relations Association (IMIRA).

Planned changes will include increased on-island administrative services, enhancement of island training opportunities for the trades represented by IMIRA, and development of a website to serve as a cyberspace hub for the island’s mechanical trades. All of this will help island contractors and tradespeople keep up with changing technology in the construction industry.

IMIRA represents contractors that offer an extensive range of mechanical services, including plumbing, heating, fire sprinkler systems, natural gas systems, sheet metal, refrigeration, under-ground services, pipe fabrication, controls, insulation, welding, and all other mechanical services, maintenance, and renovations to existing mechanical systems.  

At present, the organization has 25 accredited member companies plus working agreements with nine additional signatory contractors. More than 500 island workers are employed by the companies which IMIRA represents.

Business is booming along with the demand for knowledgeable, experienced tradespeople. “The trades are in high demand on the island,” said IMIRA General Manager Robert Hope. “It’s been going on for three to five years and hasn’t slowed.”

One challenge for island companies is getting enough qualified trades people. The re-organization of IMIRA will help by providing more on-island training and services for the companies and their workers. 

To keep pace with constant changes in technology and regulations, trades people must regularly attend workshops and upgrading courses. IMIRA will continue to work closely with island colleges and the United Associations Local 324 to meet the demand over the next few years.

JimNoonThumbnailJim NoonIMIRA and the union jointly support the Mechanical Trades Promotional Fund. The MTPF provides financial support to tradespeople to help offset the cost when renewing certifications.  Other joint initiatives of the employer group and the union is the Joint Training Committee and the Health & Welfare and Pension plans.

“We have a very strong bond between management and labour,” said UA Local 324 Business Manager Jim Noon. “Our membership and market share continues to increase and this is a testament to our relationship. We are committed to supply our signatory contractors with qualified/experienced tradespeople. We will continue to uphold the highest standards in the industry and prepare for future generations.” 

Hope agrees. Cooperation creates a win-win within the industry which benefits companies and tradespeople. “Mechanical Trades want stability so everyone works together, employers and employees.” He expects the change will have no impact on the cordial contract negotiations between the union and IMIRA, which have been conflict-free for more than 40 years.

The biggest change is that the reorganization will eliminate some of IMIRA members’ current reliance on the provincial organization and allow implementation of island solutions for island issues.

“This change is about better management of the needs of our members and workers on the island,” Hope explained.

Increased trades training and recruitment into this booming industry is one of those needs. IMIRA is already working with Camosun College in Victoria and is looking forward to working with North Island College to develop additional on-island training.

He hopes increased on-island training will bring more young people into trades as a career choice. “Often young people don’t think about trades as a career so I’m looking forward to promoting trades education as a way to attract the next generation of tradespeople,” Hope said.

The organization and the union are also discussing developing a work-experience program in conjunction with island school districts. “This initiative will help give high school students a real feel for what the trades are all about,” Noon said.

“Our industry is booming,” Hope added. “We have to promote it to keep serving the needs of islanders.”