40 Years with PCL
In April, Eric Doiron celebrated 40 years working for PCL Builders. We caught up with him in Calgary to find out how the industry has changed over the years and what it’s like to work for one company for four decades.
Eric, originally from PEI, came out to Calgary in 1973 to work as a carpenter building condominiums. In 1977, he started with PCL, and has been with them ever since. During his time with PCL, Eric has worked throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan, and even up in the Northwest Territories.
Why did you choose carpentry?
I was always into it. Back when I was 12 years old, I helped my neighbour build cabins in PEI. He used to rent them out to the tourists in the summertime, and we framed a couple of them and I helped him do the plumbing. The second year, I built them on my own.
They’re still standing today. I actually rented one two years ago when I went back and took the kids back with me.
What did you do when you first started with PCL?
I started with PCL in April 1977 — Easter weekend — in Saskatchewan. The guys from Regina didn’t show up when they were supposed to, and I pulled up and asked a guy at the site, “You aren’t looking for any carpenters are you?” He said, “Ya, we sure are. Where are your tools and when can you start?” I said they were in the trunk of my car, so he said, okay, get started. I started there hanging slab doors.
Since then, I’ve done almost everything. When a project is different than what you’ve done in the past, you just need to sit down and think about it—it’s all about getting down to the basics. Don’t get the idea into your head that it’s too big. Work at it step by step and you’ll get it.
What was the most interesting job?
I’d say the City Centre high-rise in downtown Calgary was one. Another would be the 16th Avenue Bridge in Calgary.
How has the industry changed over the years?
In Calgary, the industry has been up and down, up and down. The biggest change in wages was in 1982. I finished a job where we were making $19.35 per hour. Then they asked me to go to Moose Jaw and when I got there, we were only going to make $9 per hour. I said no way and left. They called me three weeks later and offered $13. I took it because I had kids and needed the money. The wages went up pretty fast after that again, but it was hard for a while because we had to pay for our own hotels.
Safety is also way more of a priority than it used to be. I can remember hanging off walls and over water with just a belt—no harness, no hook, just a piece of steel bent open.
I also remember the day that they brought in safety glasses. I had never worn glasses before that. They brought us all into one of the lunch rooms and said we had to wear these safety glasses and if we didn’t, we’d be sent home. I threw mine across the table and said, “Okay, send me home.” I had a phone call within about three minutes from the superintendent. “What do you mean you won’t wear them?” he asked. I told him that I wanted to go home, and joked that this would be a good way to get there. I did end up wearing the glasses though.
How has PCL changed over the years?
Basically, they have the same core values that they’ve always had.
What advice would you give someone who is entering the trades?
Get that trade ticket as fast as you can and stick at it. I don’t think going from company to company is really the best idea, but a lot of people do it. But if you get to know a few of the superintendents and get them to like you, you get more calls.