Thursday, April 21, 2011

STEELWORKERS REACH TENTATIVE DEAL FOR UNION MEMBERS IN SOUTHERN INTERIOR

After nearly ten months of on-again off-again negotiations, the United Steelworkers have finally reached a tentative agreement with the Interior Forest Labour Relations Association after an all night bargaining session in Vancouver.

While the tentative deal was mediated with the help of Labour Relations Board Mediator Mark Atkinson, the USW was able to maintain their goal of bringing the union pattern agreement—already adopted by Steelworkers in the northern interior—to their union members in southern BC. Steelworkers in the south recently voted 95% in favour of strike action which showed the IFLRA that they were not willing to stand for an inferior second-rate agreement.

Details of the tentative agreement will not be released until the Steelworker members get a look at the deal. A quick overview however, reveals the pattern 4-year agreement adopted elsewhere in the industry, enhanced job security language that finally addresses the exclusion of working foreman from bargaining unit work, improved contract language surrounding permanent and/or partial closure of manufacturing operations, and a long-overdue trades rate adjustment for Tradesmen and Power Engineers that reflects the needs of both the Union and Industry.

In addition to 2% wage increases in the 3rd and 4th years, the tentative deal also has language that finally allows union members to determine the value of proposed alternate shifting that meet the needs of both the employee and the company.

The BC Interior Bargaining Committee is satisfied the deal meets the union pattern established in the north, and is recommending the membership ratify this tentative agreement.

Source: USW BC BARGAINING BULLETIN #47 - April 21, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Union Management Meeting - April 6, 2011

Union Committee Present: Jeff Bromley, Rick Boekestyn, Ron Fisher, Reuben Blackwater, Enzo Caccavo, Bryan Gaudet, Dave Szots, Doug Wood.
Management Present: Roland K, Ian L, Dave P.
Meeting commenced 2:45 P.M.


OLD BUSINESS

Hiring Additional Workers
UNION: Where are we on this? Hiring additional workers is important now, since summer vacation time is fast approaching.
MANAGEMENT: We are not hiring now. We already hired 8 or 9 over the last while. Two are at the sawmill finishing up their training. Additionally, three senior casuals will be brought on when school ends for the summer.
UNION: Yet the last four days at the planer have run with only one shift of the 3 shifts having a clean-up person.
MANAGEMENT: That's because too many workers are absent.
UNION: With the current total of 5 people absent and on vacation now at the planer, and you run short-handed, how will you manage the 5 vacation requests you allow during the summer plus some absences?
MANAGEMENT: We will manage absenteeism.
UNION: Last years summer vacation relief wasn't handled well. Can you hire some relief with term letters?
MANAGEMENT: We will have summer students. Term letters won't apply to them other than the summer student letter. We understand they are entitled to full benefits regardless.

Vacation Policy
MANAGEMENT: Ian and Jeff met on this topic last week and went over some of the issues.
UNION & MANAGEMENT: < Lots of discussion >
MANAGEMENT: Either there is a way to tweak the current policy, or we should make a major change to the vacation policy here at Elko.
UNION: We should do our best to tweak the vacation policy. Like make sure if vacation time is
cancelled by a worker, it should go to the next senior applicant for that time slot.
UNION & MANAGEMENT: We agree to allow bookings for 1st and 2nd choices next year. We want to improve the vacation policy to make it fairer.


NEW BUSINESS

Company Update
MANAGEMENT: Pulp prices are up but so is the Canadian dollar. Year to date lumber prices are lower than expected. U.S. housing starts are much lower than seen in years. There are reports that 13% of the new houses already built in the U.S. are currently vacant. We expect it to be another two years before the lumber market improves. We are tapping into the Chinese market with more of our products going there. But more mills are coming on line, probably manufacturing wood heading for China too. This is because the marketing efforts from B.C. have produced results, and China is taking more of our wood.
UNION: When will you do the upgrade to the planer infeed?
MANAGEMENT: We are hoping to start this in the next couple of weeks. It will take two to three months to complete this project.
UNION: Is it true Tembec is doing a huge improvement project down east? And if so, is this project sucking funding from us in the west? Other companies are investing heavily in their mills.
MANAGEMENT: We are serious about putting money into our mills. The Tembec board has committed to improving this mill.
UNION: What about the kilns?
MANAGEMENT: We have a plan to have another set of kilns in the first quarter of 2013. We should have confidence in Dennis R. and Jim L. in maintaining the business.

Smoke from Burning of Your Wood Waste
UNION: We had the same issue last year, and again now this year. We were taken aback that you would submit your workers to this heavy smoke yet again.
MANAGEMENT: We lit the fire because the wood needed to be burned. It was become too big of a stockpile.
UNION: What about NOT burning this wood waste like at Canal Flats.
MANAGEMENT: If we can't get a grinder, then it has to go regardless. Maybe we should burn this pile more often.
UNION: This location is poor. The smoke goes directly towards the workplace. Put the pile elsewhere. Or build a burn pit and feed that pit with the debris.
MANAGEMENT: In the short term we may consider a burn pit.
UNION: What about how this thick smoke affected some of your workers, who went home. You
handled their cases differently last year compared to this year.
MANAGEMENT: We handled them wrong last year. We offered other work on site and respirators.
UNION: The smoke was everywhere on site. It was bad for everyone.

Temporary Postings versus using Spares
UNION: We are asking you not to use the Temporary type of posting for jobs if we don't have specific dates for when the Temporary job ends. We suggest you use spares to fill in.
MANAGEMENT: We agree. The suggestion on using temporary came from you guys because senior people not being able to do a job held by a junior spare for lengthy periods.
UNION: You are offering odd choices when the Temporary posting concludes. Some have turned into permanent; others are moved back to their original job, or whatever. We need to look at Al and Rueben in their Temporary jobs. We want Al to revert to a spare Oiler, and Reuben to revert to a spare Optimizer Edger operator.
MANAGEMENT: Agreed. If those workers they are filling in for are not coming back, we will post those jobs.
UNION: What about Herb on the loader, what are his duties?
MANAGEMENT: Even though he is on the Hog Loader, he must be trained on all loader functions - log loader, laying out logs, bucket work, loading the decks, and unloading trucks.
UNION: Are you ever going to train Greg on his spare job on the R.T.?
MANAGEMENT: Give us a couple of weeks. We will bring him over when we are on the Fir run.

Ability Management Program at Elko
UNION: The Ability Management Committee has not been informed of workers on "return to work," or of workers on modified duties. A recent decision made by management sending home a worker being accommodated looks to us as being vindictive.
-We understand that the Ability Management Program has NOT been cancelled. It was signed in 2002 and we still have a "return to work" program in force.
-We understand a tradesman has been accommodated on a forklift job, but without the participation of the Ability Management Committee. Shed some light on all of this for us!
MANAGEMENT: We have recently talked with WorkSafe, and they have given us some guidance, regarding our program and also surrounding some individuals.
-We have a revised "return to work" policy that will be taken to the Local Union and then rolled out to the mills.
-Over the past 2 to 3 years we got off track with WorkSafe. TechMed is not doing as much for us as we thought they would.
UNION: We have a problem with you pushing a worker off the claim to get a rise out of WorkSafe.
MANAGEMENT: After a long period of time, it is not our problem but WorkSafe's problem. WorkSafe still does not have a resolution in this case, with solid ground for this worker to return to work.
UNION: You are changing the Ability Management Committee without our input.
MANAGEMENT: Your problem is communications. We go through the Local Union to make changes.
UNION: Yes, we were told there is a policy change.
MANAGEMENT: We need a resolution that we won't carry people on accommodations for open ended time frames.
-It is up to Management to decide whether these open ended guys stay as extras or not.
-We are working with WorkSafe on this. The meeting we just had with WorkSafe has been on the books for 3 months, but always got delayed.
UNION: We have a serious concern here because all this seems like your issue only after you sent that worker home.
MANAGEMENT: We tried to find out this worker's "return to work" date and since there was none after a lengthy period of time, we realized we can't pack a worker indefinitely. WorkSafe needs to be pushed in this case. Our supervisors didn't look at the big picture, and simply looked at keeping a guy busy.
UNION: Well understandings are different here. You need to communicate today with this worker and let him know what is going on. Set up a meeting between you and him and one of our reps.

Lack of Apprenticeships
UNION: We want you to look at the maintenance crew in Elko. Today it remains an aging crew. Add the four year apprenticeship time, and you will see your current crew of tradesmen right at the end of their career to where they can pass on the knowledge and rich experience they have gained to apprenticeships. Who will your apprentices learn from if not from knowledgeable tradesmen?
-Don't keep focussing on training or not training for the mines of this area. We all know you can't
compete with the mines, but the track record of home grown apprenticeships has generally been good for the company that starts the apprenticeship.
-Also, don't forget how Ian or Roland got here. They rose through the ranks. Encourage your
workers to rise through the ranks too, using the apprenticeship programs.
MANAGEMENT: Currently the key for the company is cash. Ian has spoken a lot about training new tradesmen.
UNION: Be warned, it is not like people are driving to Elko and deciding to stay because they love the area. You simply are not going to attract many new tradesmen.
MANAGEMENT: We understand what you are saying. We have the same issue recruiting staff.
UNION: Keep in mind, it will cost more to train apprenticeships in the future. It's better to start now.
MANAGEMENT: Dennis R. is on track that "in house" apprenticeships a more likely to stay with the company. But he says the Wood Products division has to hold its own. Even so, Ian has never relented in pushing for apprenticeships.
__________________________
MEETING ADJOURNED 4:40 P.M.
Notes to this meeting submitted by:
Ron Fisher
Secretary for the Elko Plant Committee
USW Local 1-405
* Next Meeting: not discussed.

Monday, April 4, 2011

USW DISAPPOINTED WITH IFLRA ROADBLOCKS

USW DISAPPOINTED WITH IFLRA ROADBLOCKS DESPITE BARGAINING PATTERN GAINS

Despite a number of IFLRA road blocks that brought bargaining to a halt late Friday afternoon, the USW BC Interior Bargaining Committee pushed away from the negotiating table knowing that they have moved their bargaining pattern significantly closer to the Southern Interior. The USW is very disappointed that a tentative agreement was not reached this week but is somewhat satisfied that some of the heavy lifting has been completed.

The USW BC Interior Bargaining Committee is unhappy to report that the IFLRA is continuing to drag their feet and hold on tight to some very restrictive proposals. The IFLRA has decided to try and instruct the union on how to conduct their union business by proposing restrictions to the number of members a local union can—with notice—take off the job to attend shop steward and/or health & safety schools. Surprisingly, the IFLRA has even proposed to address our need for improved health & safety language by restricting union access to information during serious incident investigations—an obvious reaction to the recent events in the news. Sadly, the hours of work section on alternate shift scheduling is yet to be resolved as well.

In an attempt to keep bargaining alive however, the USW was successful in convincing IFLRA members companies to meet with the local unions in an attempt to resolve their outstanding local union issues before bargaining resumes. A number of other pattern issues remain unresolved and in spite of the setback on Friday afternoon, the Parties have scheduled another negotiating attempt for April 13th.

The IFLRA represents a number of major southern interior companies such as Tolko Industries Limited, Tembec Inc., and Weyerhaeuser Canada Limited. United Steelworker members employed by these companies and a number of other smaller southern interior enterprises have been without a collective agreement since June 30, 2009.

Source: USW BC BARGAINING BULLETIN #44 - April 2, 2011