Finding Balance: Changing the rules

Merit Contractors Association provides value to their member organizations.

Brought forth by the economic realities facing the Canadian construction industry in the 1980s, what is now Merit Contractors Association has dutifully served open-shop construction organizations and their employees for over 30 years, providing essential services including employee benefits, training and advocacy for the industry at large. 

Today, the organization partners with over 1,350 companies that in turn employ over 40,000 Albertans. Malcolm Kirkland, Merit Contractor Association’s president for the past four years, credits the organization’s system of principles and beliefs as what drew him to the not-for-profit. "What’s important to me are the philosophies upon which this company was orchestrated. Those are the principles of transparency and fairness,” Malcolm says.

 

Action plans

These philosophies have set the tone for Merit’s offerings, most notably through their popular benefits program. This program provides a range of competitive and cost-effective plans tailored for the construction industry, which, more than other markets, employs a more transient workforce. As such, standard benefit plans don’t typically fit the needs of open-shop employers or their staff.

“Member companies agreed that when a construction job is completed, employees should be able to go to another company without any lapse in insurance coverage,” explains Malcolm. “When you’re really busy you can put excess hours into the plan and could even put enough hours in there that you can be carried for benefits for the next eight months,” referencing the flexibility of the plans and the ease in which workers can move from job to job regardless of whether they stay with the same company.

Looking out for the little guys

Beyond benefits, Merit helps member businesses, particularly smaller enterprises, to supplement their companies with value-added services (including human resources and workplace safety capabilities) and education, in turn helping them navigate an ever-shifting policy landscape. “They don’t have HR or safety specialists. They just want to make payroll,” explains Malcolm, speaking of the 55 per cent of Merit member companies who have 10 employees or less. “[Changing policy] has put a different twist on where they can focus their energies. Our success has been educating our members through webinars and seminars on all of the changes that are coming.” 

By helping members focus on their core competencies, Malcolm hopes that Merit can be a stabilizing force for these businesses and their staff during periods of slower economic activity.

Balance through family

As the president, Malcolm finds his own steadying power a little closer to home for achieving more work-life balance. “I’ll be completely honest, my work-life balance is because I married well,” he says. “Because there are times throughout the year where I’ll go home and there is a novel on my pillow and my wife will say ‘it’s time for you to kick back and relax and start reading,’” he explains, praising his wife’s role as a guide when it comes to aligning the worlds of work and home.

“Work-life balance is truly a partnership, and I rely on my wife as my gauge.”

Finding a winner in Canadian Western Bank (CWB)

With CWB, the organization has found an engaged partner that offers attentive and no-nonsense counsel. “We ended up putting out a major tender for our work, and we were very impressed with CWB’s offering, their frankness and their staff, and I still say the same thing today as I have for two years. It was not an easy transition but the results were very worthwhile,” outlines Malcolm of the process by which CWB and Merit’s relationship began. 

For Malcolm, the relationships with his organization’s members form a key pillar of their operating values. This high regard is reflected by CWB in their partnership with Merit Contractors Association and Malcolm.

“For me, it’s pretty simple. It’s a professional working relationship and every once in a while you get a real winner — and this is a winner.”

CWB is here to support companies throughout every stage of their business. Speak to a CWB advisor today to see how we can help your business grow.