ANN ARBOR, MICH. - The United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA), North America, and the Plumbing Trades Employees Union (PTEU), Australia, signed an affiliation agreement today for joint skills training and employment initiatives in the United States, Canada and Australia. A first between two unions, the agreement seeks to help streamline the building industry, reduce the shortage of skilled workers and provide unprecedented efforts to tackle the global problem of climate change.
"Emerging technologies and building standards promise to have a significant impact on the efficient delivery of energy and water. It is essential that we share best practices and training as systems, products and technologies begin to standardize globally," said UA General President William P. Hite. "The UA will initially share its expertise in heavy industry as Australia embarks on expansion of oil and gas refining, and power generation projects. Our experience in training workers for certification in welding, instrumentation installation and calibration is highly valued by our industry."
PTEU Federal Secretary Earl Setches offered his own union's expertise, saying "Australian expertise in water conservation will serve North America as it seeks to address its aging water and sewer infrastructure, and retrofit its existing building stock. We have vast knowledge of irrigation systems, rain water harvesting, and water treatment and recycling." Australians, including PTEU members, have embarked on a campaign to retrofit 1,200 existing buildings in the City of Melbourne and its municipality. They recently celebrated the award of the U.S. Green Building Council's highest LEED® rating in the world for the Grocon Pixel Building, Melbourne.
Both organizations see an immediate need to share best practices on biofuels, geothermal and trigeneration, which is a power-heat-refrigeration combined system that recycles waste heat and water for other uses. "There is tremendous job growth potential now for building and water infrastructure improvement, as well as alternate and traditional forms of energy generation," said Hite.
An Australian contractor sees benefit in the agreement: this is a first step in skilled workers traveling within the trade. "We think as a global company. We need qualified workers now in some of our mining projects," said Axis Plumbing Group Managing Director Clem Morfuni. Experts in grey water, black water recycling, and solar hot water, Axis also operates in New Zealand, United Kingdom and Thailand. "This is a first step in contractors coming together, too. I want to learn about building innovations and how the market works in North America. I'm hoping American contractors will want to know more about our Green Star building design and construction."
"This agreement will help us meet the needs of building owners. As an industry our contractors recognize that their competitive position and ability to exceed their clients' expectations rests largely on the skills and abilities of their union workforce," said William J. ("Mac") Lynch. He is President of Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) and President of William F. Lynch Company, Inc., Worcester, Mass. MCAA represents 2,400 U.S. mechanical, industrial, plumbing and service contractors; a number of them also perform work internationally.
Both the UA and PTEU training programs include a focus on green building along with traditional skills and advanced technologies found throughout the construction industry. The UA offers many Certification Programs including Green System Awareness and Energy Audit to ensure that UA members remain at the forefront of the piping industry. Through the UA University system there are opportunities to attain further credentials, including advanced degrees in areas such as construction supervision and management, and heating/ventilation/air conditioning/refrigeration (HVACR), as well as sustainable technologies. The PTEU trains workers through its Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre in Melbourne, offering a unique approach to cross-training building professionals to look at various systems in an integrated manner. In addition to green plumbing and industrial services, the Australians are trained on the latest innovations in energy and water conservation.