Finished what has seemed to be an extremely long and arduous grievance process yesterday with four grievances that have been outstanding since before Christmas.
I really don't understand why it's taking us too long and sometimes I wonder if we're too courteous when it comes to allowing the process to creep beyond its scope (two weeks) but at any rate it's completed from a meeting point of view.
Planerman Apprentice Overtime entitlement grievance at Step III ---
It was decided after much discussion by the committee along with Tony that entertaining any idea of arbitration wouldn't be very successful. The worker phoned in and asked to work Saturday. The company didn't inform him that there was Sunday work available as First Aid as the worker was away at school that week. The key was that the worker didn't inform that company that he was available for OT work on Sunday and when he didn't do that, either by omission or on purpose the basis for the grievance was lost. It's clear that for Overtime work that workers have to inform the company they're available, either by phone or by signing the list. We ended settling on a make-up shift for the worker at both parties convenience as per seniority and availability.
Two grievances that were in my mind almost identical were finally at third step yesterday ---
The Letourneau operator and a Sort Machine operator from late November and October, respectively, were heard on the basis that the company denied them their ability to apply their seniority as per the contract in a reduction of forces.
In this worker's case it was when the mill shutdown for a week in late November, the company wouldn't let this worker bump into Watchman because he's never done. We argued that this worker is a 25 year employee and that Watchman is a Group 3 entry-level position and will familiarization would be competent to do the job. The company maintained that if a worker has never demonstrated that he's either held the job or done aspects of the job they aren't going to give familiarization. Though management did say that if it came down to the worker not working that they would work out some sort of understanding for those workers in the case of a Plant-wide reduction.
I'm not sure what the difference in that this was a one week shutdown. I'm thinking he meant if there was a massive layoff.
Either way both sides dug in and we informed them we were going to get a legal opinion and go from there. Tony thinks that this is a good test for an arbitration so hopefully we go there.
With the other worker it's similar. The company eliminated his Sort Machine in the Log yard and the other worker wanted to bump to the Shipping Fork. The company refuse saying that the other worker wasn't competent in that job. We argued that the other worker fulfilled his training obligation years ago when he had a fork spare in the fork pool that served the Planer, Kilns, and Shipping. They argued that he didn't have the Ives training, which I believe is a complete smoke screen because all of the older Forklift operators haven't been through the training and have been grandfathered in. The other worker left the fork years ago but should be grandfathered in a reduction of forces. The company also argued that the Shipping forks must know loading design patterns, weight restrictions and Customs obligations, which is complete B.S. If that was the case then they wouldn't need the Shipping Supervisor then would they?
At any rate I though this was a better one to go to arbitration but it was decided that this worker would be the test because the other worker has since bumped to the Mill Loader and likes it there. His only concern is if he gets bumped again he wants to be able to go where his seniority and competency takes him. The question that remains out there is this: what happens when job duties are updated and expanded or changed but in a reduction in forces there are workers that didn't do those aspects of the job because they weren't part of the job then? Through no fault of their own workers who have gone through the training process and moved on are being discriminated against in a reduction of forces because the duties have changed. The grievance is in abeyance at Step III.
The Lock-out violation and Work Performance reprimand from November at the Sawmill Stacker is almost finished. The Letter of Understanding for operator is that he'll get 20 hours back now and the other 20 hours back August first if he demonstrates he can work safely in that time, or something along those lines. The Work Performance reprimand goes away because both the operator and supervisor in question are now 'working together and getting along' so it goes away also. Both will be stricken from his record, the reprimand now and the suspension in August.
It's an easy win for us as I think we had the company back against the wall with the letters we had supporting our argument of inconsistencies in that supervisor applying the discipline policy when it comes to Lock-out, that and the fact the same supervisor didn't reprimand his buddies when it was witnessed they were in a lockout at the Planer some months ago and the fact that he was in a Lock-out violation when he crawled into the conveyor underneath the Stacker not long after the Sawmill Stacker incident. If we get to arbitration there's always an inherent risk but I still think we'd win but in the end get the same settlement we're already at and get it probably around the same time frame.
At the end of the meeting the company informed us on the mill's schedule:
• The WorkShare program will end after this week (week of April 11) and regular work hours both at the Planer and Sawmill will resume (40 hours per week) will resume April 14.
• The Pulp Mill is scheduled to have it's shutdown for two weeks in May. This will now affect us as both Canal and Elko will take a week of downtime each. Canal will go down the week of May 5 and Elko on the week of May 12.
• The good news is that the Pulp needs all the tradesmen it can get and will utilize ours for the week we're down if the workers so choose and they also need 150 Labourers for the shutdown and our guys will be given the opportunity to work at the Pulp Mill during that week we are down.
• The process will likely be by sign-up sheet and by Elko seniority but that has yet to be confirmed.
• The solid details on this haven't been posted yet but the company says it will put out the details in a Memo this week.
• More downtime will be taken but it's looks as though it's going to be the last week of July, first week of August to accommodate both vacation requests and the company's need to take down time. This hasn't been finalized yet as Tembec V.P. won't commit to the down time past May because of market conditions and Pulp/Chip inventory. I'm told that the commitment will be made before the end of May.
• The shutdowns will ALL be layoffs, not vacation shutdowns as rumours were circulating to be. Employees with E.I. claims will be able to claim layoff benefits.
• Employees with E.I. claims previous to the WorkShare program will be able to revert back to their existing claims but will have to contact E.I. and go through the process with them.
• For those who wondered about other areas of the mill taking downtime to make their 120 hours (e.g. the Scales) it's not going to happen. The scales were a necessity during the WorkShare, as were the shop and the electricians, and now that they could take downtime we can't force them to take it. Now that the scales are down the workers will apply their seniority or go back to their permanent in the case of B. N., and work the schedules accordingly. It's a bitter pill to swallow for some but there's not much we can do about it.
Management also made mention of our blog - http://elkoecho.blogspot.com/ - and expressed concern over some names that were in the last meeting U/M minutes of which were posted on the blog and the possible ramifications through BC's Privacy Act. Those concerns have been dealt with. (With heavy use of the word "worker, company," and initials.)
Two other grievances are at Step II. Filer - overtime entitlement and Planer Infeed Forklift - overtime entitlement. They are being handled by Doug Wood and Lee Roger, respectively. Please update the committee on their status as you both mentioned possible settlements. As Safety chair I'm also looking into an incident of a Supervisor letting a machine be used after the front brakes were deemed unsafe and the machine unfit for use. I'll update once I know where we're at.
That's it for now. I know this is long and drawn out but there's some good news here so everybody keep up the good work.
Tembec Elko Plant Vice Chair
Tembec Elko Safety Committee Chair
USW 1-405 Trustee