By Dan O'Reilly
More than 1,000 owners, managers, contractors and ironworkers from across Canada and the United States exchanged ideas and listened to a roster of premier speakers at the industry’s event recently.
Held in New Orleans, the two-day IMPACT- Collaboration — Success conference was organized and sponsored by the Ironworkers,’ which represents 130,000 ironworkers in North America, and the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT).
It was comprised of a mix of general and breakout sessions focusing on a long list of topics including the global market outlook, mental health in the construction industry, economic forecasts, how to survive the impending recession, renewable energy, steel erection and fall protection.
“Always be professional and progressive,” said one of the speakers, Turner Construction Company executive vice-president Pat Di Filippo, who cautioned the audience to never take their clients or their workers for granted.
What may seem like a long inventory of projects can “quickly evaporate” due to unforeseen circumstances, said Di Filippo, who noted there is increased emphasis on environmental, social and governance responsibility by developers, especially European firms.
Another speaker was Invesco’s chief global market strategist Kristina Hooper who provided an analysis of the economic headwinds caused first by COVID-19 and then by the inflationary pressures generated by the actions of a number of central banks trying to revive the economy in response to the pandemic.
Although the conference was in the American Deep South, Canadian issues were not overlooked and were, in fact, the focus of a number of breakout sessions.
In a well-attended gathering titled, It’s cold in Canada, but Politics are Hot, Ironworkers’ consultant Lindsay Maskell provided a perspective of the platforms of the different federal parties and how those platforms will have a bearing, either directly or indirectly on the industry.
“There are a lot of issues they (the industry) need to know,” said Maskell, in an interview after the conference.
As an example, she cited the “anti-union” speeches federal Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre has made in the past.
And in the conference’s first Canadian contractor and business manager breakout session, a six-member panel comprised of labour and management representatives from across the country weighed-in on a variety of issues affecting construction as a whole and the iron industry in particular.
Those panelists were Ironworkers’ Local 752 Halifax, N.S. financial secretary, treasurer and business manager George MacDougall; Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Labour Relations Association president Terry French; Ironworkers’ Local 736, Hamilton, Ont. business manager Steven Pratt; E.S. FOX — Ontario area manager Steve Matthews; Ironworkers’ Local 725 Calgary, Alta. business manager Jay Smart; and Supreme Steel’s Alberta construction manager, Jonathan Leder.
The issues they discussed include the impact of COVID on the construction industry, worker shortages and how to attract more people into the industry, how technology is changing worksite procedures and, in particular, mental health and suicide, said IMPACT’s Canadian regional director Bert Royer, who organized and planned the session.
“There were approximately 90 people in the audience and when I asked how many of them had been impacted indirectly or directly by suicide, 70 put up their hands,” said Royer, who is the vice-chair of a University of Colorado study into suicide and mental health issues in the construction industry.
Asked to summarize the main highlights of the two-day conference, Royer said what was most significant was the “incredible networking” that was carried out.
Planning is already underway for 2024 which will be held in Orlando, Fla. from Feb. 18 to 21, says IMPACT’s marketing and public relations director Sara Schuttloffel.
Read article on ConstructConnect.com.