Where do we go from here?
We must build a modern, progressive, responsive organization that non-union workers want to join and that our members proudly support. Where do we go from here? The best way to build such an organization is to first remember where weve been building trade unions once commanded a monopoly of ICI construction in British Columbia.
In the early 1980s we saw the rise of the neo-conservatives and the election of the Socreds, as well as the rise of the open shop movement and the emergence of alternative construction unions like CLAC & CISIWU. And we witnessed the failure of the building trades unions to change with the times.
This led to a slow and steady decline of the power of construction unions. What was once a monopoly has been reduced to a point where today the traditional building trades have a mere 10 to 15 per cent of the ICI construction market. Make no mistake about it carpenters, construction workers, and workers in general have suffered greatly because of this decline.
The rest of Canada, with the notable exception of southern Ontario and the province of Quebec, has been unable to shake a trend that started with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan and continues with Stephen Harper and George Bush.
We have to do things much differently if we are to once again achieve the gains our members deserve and to earn the trust of a majority of construction workers. On page 2, I have identified the immediate priorities that CMAW must address. Thanks for taking the time to read the first edition of our new newsletter, and work safe!
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CMAW priorities . . . continued from front page
We must review our organizing direction and programs. There are two ways to organize from the bottom up or from the top down.
Bottom up organizing is when we go out and sign up non-union workers, and then apply to the Labour Relations Board for a vote. A certification is then granted if a majority of workers in the bargaining unit vote in favour of the union. Having done this for most of my own union career, I know what it takes to be successful. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. In the 1970s, construction unions were mainly dealing with family construction businesses. They seldom mounted a vigorous counterattack or employed the sophisticated legal tactics that we face today from the corporate giants of construction. We must improve our tactics and develop the types of strategies needed to win in these campaigns. Many times Ive been asked about how to do this. It takes overwhelming support from the union as a whole, including a large amount of union financial resources devoted to win a prolonged campaign (with a better financed and sometimes more dedicated opponent), trained and enthusiastic staff, a positive image, the ability to communicate effectively and sheer will to win. Now that our long dispute with the International is nearly over, we must redouble our efforts if we are to be successful at bottom up organizing.
Top down organizing is when we go out to meet with non-union contractors and owners and give them good reasons to sign a collective agreement. During the past year we have met with numerous owners and contractors. While some of these meetings result in nothing but a conversation and being told Not right now, other times these meetings have produced work opportunities our members would have never previously
We recently signed a collective agreement with an employer only because we had the tenacity to call them and ask for a meeting.
We must also do a better job to develop our union contractor relationships. We need to encourage them to hire more of our members and get them to bid for more work. I see these aspects of organizing as some of the most important responsibilities the president of CMAW holds. If we do not grow as a union we will be destined for the scrap heap. Organizing, one way or another, must be a priority for CMAW.
Talk up the union
We must regain the pride we once had for this union.
Rumors, half truths and innuendoes have a tremendously harmful impact on our union. For the membership in construction, the recent split on the executive has had an unfortunate negative effect on our reputation and consequently the ability to promote the benefits of becoming a CMAW member. I believe the recent Painters Union raids would not have happened if we had been united. I do, however, take solace that we were able to reach an agreement in the dispute between CMAW and Local 506. Local 506 have been granted their charter and I want to thank the executive for successful resolution of this important issue. The November 2006 executive board meeting was the most productive meeting held in a long time. The recent issue of the Carpenter magazine featured a number of the usual half truths and misinformation the International continues to put forth. It amazes me how they continue to focus on British Columbia. I think we have become an unhealthy obsession of the leadership of the American dominated United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBCJA) and some of their B.C. supporters.
I guess what they say about bright lights attracting bugs is true. We are continuing with our mediation with the UBCJA and were now at a critical point in these negotiations. I hope 2007 will bring a successful conclusion to our long fight for a Canadian union.
The Constitution Committee is close to presenting an enhanced constitution for CMAW. Once this new constitution is approved by the CMAW Executive Board it will be sent out for membership referendum. You can be assured that the constitution will be democratic and that it will put our membership first.
We have also recently applied to certify several bargaining units held with the Columbia Hydro Constructors, Vancouver School Board and Simon Fraser University. The votes have been held and the ballots will be counted, pending labour board hearings.
Construction is a word-of-mouth business. We must talk to non-union workers, contractors and owners, and tell them about the benefits of belonging to CMAW. Unions grow through multiplication and addition. We have many challenges, but I know that if we all work together we can start to build this union into an organization that workers will fight for once again. Weve done it before.
We must provide good training programs programs that give apprentices the skills and confidence they need to succeed.
Its imperative for us to provide our membership with specialized safety training to help ensure members arrive home safely from work. We must work better with unionized employers to develop training courses that give them the advantage when bidding for work. We must develop good union education programs that train the next generation of leaders, executive board members, and job stewards courses that give our members good reason to belong to our union.
We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really move forward with training now that a settlement has been reached to end the two-year dispute between CMAW and the union contractors association the CLRA. CMAW and CLRA reached an amicable settlement. The agreed upon division of assets and contributions gives us the freedom to develop and administer our own training programs. This is a first for our union.
Don MacNeil welcomes CMAW to Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union
On behalf of our Western Region I would like to offer you my heartfelt welcome to the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP). This is an exciting time for us.
Historically, all of the unions that came together to form CEP shared a common vision. A vision that Canadian workers should have the right to control their own destiny. In one way or another that was a choice made by each and every one of the components that make us what CEP is today. With your decision to choose CEP as your partner, we are carrying on that tradition. It makes us proud and we are glad you did.
We see the establishment of CMAW as a positive move for all of us. Your decision to work together with us opens up new horizons for CEP and brings new work opportunities for your membership; it broadens our scope and increases our stature within the Canadian trade union movement. We hope it helps you realize your dream of working with an autonomous Canadian union.
I give you my commitment that we will work hand in hand to guarantee that you have found a home that respects the democratic principles you hold so dear, and I want to assure you that from the Interior of British Columbia to Fort McMurray, Vancouver Island to Conklin, Alberta, CEP will be there for our construction worker sisters and brothers.
Part of what makes all this work, particularly in the oil sands, has been our close relationship with Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, the FTQ. To our friends from Quebec and B.C who are working with us welcome. Nous souhaitons la bienvenue à nos nouveaux membres. Nous reconnaissons votre expertise, vos talents, et votre idées. Bienvenue.
Although we have worked closely together for several months, in many ways the work is just beginning. CMAW President Jan Noster and I will be visiting job sites in early 2007 and I look forward to personally meeting as many of you as possible.
We hope and urge that all locals will affiliate to CEP without delay. We need to coordinate and work together better to administer services for workers as soon as possible. We have to work as one to make this happen. I see a bright future together. Lets make it work.
Secretary Treasurers report
Collective agreement ratified
The results are in on the Standard Agreement vote. The majority of our members passed the agreement by an overwhelming 77 per cent and agreed to increase their benefit and pension contributions over the term of this agreement by 74 per cent.
The millwrights have asked to conduct their own membership vote and I was advised that the benefit and pension vote was being conducted in due course. The council has agreed to separate the construction industry agreements into commercial/ institutional, industrial, including the Scaffold Addendum and the stand-alone Lather Agreement.
In the 1993 agreement a committee was struck that included the infamous Wayne Cox, Business Manager for the Victoria local, that spearheaded the deletion of many clauses in that agreement. Now, after the fact, we are attempting to go through clause by clause to determine what is still relevant to include in the new agreement/s. We have decided that it would be easier for the members and contractors to identify the specific obligations and conditions that are pertinent to their work. (It wouldnt make sense to include all industrial conditions for a contractor that only does commercial work and vice versa.) Consequently, it has taken much longer to finalize and distribute the agreement.
The Provincial Negotiating Committee has ratified a new All-Employee Agreement. This agreement will be sent to contractors for signing and implementation, retroactive to June 15, 2006.
Carpentry Apprenticeship and Training Committee
For many years under the purview of the BCPCC collective agreements there has been the Carpentry, Apprenticeship and Training Committee (CATC) a joint union/CLRA committee that oversees the apprenticeship training fund to ensure our apprentices receive bursaries for schooling and full services provided by the locals.
In early 2004, the committee came to a complete halt regarding what funding would be appropriate. Consequently, the joint representatives from the employer group (CLRA) withheld the approval of signing cheques to the union that in turn pays the local for service and apprentice bursaries.
The issue went on for approximately two years when finally the union chairperson, Tony Heisterkamp of the OKDC (Okanagan) referred the issue to the Provincial Negotiating Committee to resolve. That committee raised the issue at the bargaining table and, as a result, the Agency Agreement originally set up for the CATC now included a stipulation to provide a final decision on the issue.
Through the bargaining process, the parties agreed to separate their joint interests in future training initiatives, and to terminate the CATC, enabling each party to determine their own training destiny.
The 17 cent per hour contribution was then divided equally between the Employer Training Fund and our union. (The balance of the fund was shared 62.5 per cent to the union and 37.5 per cent to the employer group.)
The CMAW Executive Board has now established a CMAW Training Committee that will review the service requirements of locals that administer overall provincial training and apprenticeship needs.
Ongoing international talks
The council is involved in ongoing negotiations with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of Americas (UBCJA) legal counsel. We have had frank discusssions and remain hopeful that a full and final settlement can be reached between the two parties to end this 10-year dispute.
The UBCJA must realize that we have passed the point of no return. CMAW is our new Canadian union and we will not be moved. We shall overcome our growing pains. We shall overcome our aggressors, and we shall have our freedom.
The international building trades unions continue to make our steps as small as possible for fear that some day the same thing could happen to them. Perhaps their members will one day wake up and recognize that there is little point in continuing to belong to and be owned by American business unionism dictated from the United States.
Ellis Don, a previous long-term B.C. general contractor, has returned to British Columbia.
Negotiations have taken place over these many weeks between council officers Ellis Don, and we are pleased to announce that a collective agreement is being finalized that will create more work for our membership throughout the province.
All new wage increases, and terms-and- conditions of the recently ratified provincial agreement, have been included, and the employer is anxious to put together a steady crew.
Painters Union raiding CMAW lathers
Its just another day in the life . . . The Painters Union that represents the drywall tapers has decided to raid five of our lather contractors.
Artek Contracting, Raicor, Benton and Overbury, Modern Drywall and Optima are lather contractors that joined in by helping the Painters Union representatives get access to the jobs and their employees while our lather representatives are denied access.
Under the Labour Code of B.C., the contractors are to supply the Labour Relations Board (LRB) with a current list of all employees in order to determine who is eligible to vote on the representation vote. While some of these contractors refused to provide the lists to LRB officers and to the lather representatives, they did provide the Painters Union with their lists.
Many unfair labour practice complaints have been launched against the contractors, and as a result the votes that are being held asking employees who theyd like to have represent them have been sealed until a full hearing is held to deal with the complaints. (When Turner Bros. Contracting Ltd. went through a similar decertification vote, it took more than two years before the ballots were finally counted.)
In the meantime, on our behalf our CEP partner has launched raiding charges against the Painters Union with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
Through the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) we will demand immediate removal of the painters from the Canadian house of labour doing this would allow any union to raid the Painters Union without any repercussions from the CLC.
Workers who are represented by the Painters Union have already approached our union asking for our representation. CEP will also take any necessary action, including retaliating by refusing entry of any painter contractors at any of its mills, jobsites, factories or businesses where other CEP-affiliated members are employed. The same message was given to the Painters Union, but to no avail.
Meetings have been held with the Painters Union representatives, the CEP Presidents Assistant, Fred Wilson, and recently elected CEP Western-Region Vice- President, Don MacNeil. And, Local 1995 lather representatives have been working long hours distributing information to their members on the state of the Painters Union pension plan.
As for our pension plan, the Carpenter Workers Pension Plan Trustees made some hard decisions and are now starting to see the benefits of acting early. The Superintendent of Pension in Canada was very pleased to hear of our members long overdue decision to increase their pension contributions. We have been advised that the Ontario Pension Superintendent is monitoring the Painters Pension Plan, annually. (It would appear that all is not as well as theyre promoting in their campaign.)
In this B.C. boom economy it makes no sense for a union to decide to raid another unions membership when there are so many non-union workers to organize. The fight begins . . .
A sub-committee, comprising Ken Lippett (Local 1735 Prince Rupert), Tony Heisterkamp (Local 1346 Vernon Kamloops), Josh Coles (Local 1995 Vancouver New Westminster) and Bob Eaton (Shipwrights Local 506), was selected to establish a basis for a new CMAW constitution under the direction of Labour Relations Board (LRB) Vice-Chair, Michael Fleming, and Bruce Laughton, CMAWs legal counsel.
The committee has met several times in an attempt to reach an agreement on a draft constitution that could be recommended to the CMAW Executive Board. At a CMAW Executive Board meeting held in mid November 2006, the executive reviewed a third draft and referred more suggestions back to the committee, along with instructions to finalize their final draft as quickly as possible. The committee hopes to present their final draft shortly.
If the CMAW Executive Board can reach an agreement, the proposed constitution will go out to a membership referendum vote, and the CMAW convention that was postponed last year can take place soon.
When all is said and done, CMAW has had its growing pains, and this will continue as long as we strive to better ourselves, to better our conditions, and to better our union.
Until the next edition of the CMAW newsletter.In solidarity,
This newsletter is published quarterly for the 5750 members of the Construction, Maintenance & Allied Workers Bargaining Council.
President: Jan Noster
Secretary Treasurer: Pat Haggarty
Construction Maintenance & Allied Workers Bargaining Council
Address: 305 2806 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC V5R 5T5
Telephone: 604 - 437-0471
Fax: 604 - 437-1110
Newsletter editor: Marian Zadra Email: firstname.lastname@example.org