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News Coverage on the Grand Opening of the UA Local 179 new Regina Hall & Training Centre
August 17, 2013
Pipe trades open new hiring hall in Regina
Business booming for members
Some call it "UA 179" for short.
Its formal title is Local 179 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada.
That pretty accurately describes the people in this provincewide union local.
Its members work on the fabrication, installation and servicing of piping systems in fields like pipefitting, air conditioning and heating, quality control, sprinkler fittings and instrumentation.
And on Friday, Local 179 officially opened its new home, a bright 25,000-squarefoot building that will be a hiring hall for union members and also the new home of sophisticated training facility that aims to keep members trained to the highest level so as to make them attractive to contractors who need highly skilled labour.
With two storeys, two shops (for teaching welding and other "pipe trade" work), and two large classrooms, it was built in only 14 months. It came in under its $6.12-million construction budget and is already paid off.
Between this centre and another in Saskatoon, UA Local 179 - formed in 1906 and growing as other UA locals merged into it - did 10,000 training hours and hopes to hit 30,000 hours this year.
The new facility is located at 402 Solomon Dr. in northeast Regina, an area so new that UA 179 business manager Troy Knipple includes a tiny map on his business cards.
"It's been very busy the last couple of years and that's allowed us to pick things up," Knipple told a packed house that included local members, staff, senior civil servants, contractors and MLAs from the provincial NDP - though not from the government.
There's such a demand for its members in Saskatchewan that Local 179, with a Saskatchewan-based membership around 1,950, is also hosting about 1,200 travellers - that is, UA members from other parts of Canada.
Friday morning's official opening was thus upbeat, but also emotional - as when Knipple talked about the work members do, often with long periods at remote job sites, with some members killed in traffic accidents and other dying in hospital beds from exposure to toxic substances in the past.
But with higher environmental standards, he says "the pipe trades" are an attractive option to young people who want a trades education and good wages, and can handle sometimesrough working conditions. UA Local 179 is particularly interested in getting women, Aboriginal people, veterans and young people into the trade.
In an interview before Friday's opening, Knipple gave a primer on how a construction trade union like this one works: Because of the cyclical nature of the construction industry, contractors can't afford to keep large workforces of skilled workers.
Instead, when they get a contract, they go to the union and hire its members. They work until the project is done, then check in with the union hall to see which other employers need them.
In training, the union cooperates with the province's apprenticeship program, which sees workers alternating between work and study at SIAST, their wages increasing as they get more experience, and move from apprentices to journeypersons. The centre will be used for both basic orientations and for specialized "addto" training for work at all stage.
"Training is the foundation for our future - and it's not just apprenticeship," said Knipple.
"It goes on throughout your career."
Looking for a career in the Piping Trades?
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