International loses yet again in pension suit
Judge rules for BC Carpenters in court case
The International has lost another round in its latest lawsuit against the BC Carpenters Union. The UBCJA unsuccessfully applied to the court to stop BC Carpenters from making certain references to General President Douglas McCarrons potential for self-dealing in an amendment to their statement of defence in the case involving 13 Local Unions and several Councils refusal to contribute to an American Pension Plan for elected officers. The amendments were to include two paragraphs that referred to McCarrons relationship with Union Labor Life Insurance Company (Ullico).
Ullico is a union operated insurance company that has been called Labours Enron in the press recently as members of the board of directors enriched themselves to the tune of $6 million at the expense of Union pension funds. Zenith Administrators, the body used by McCarron to oversee most of the restructured Carpenters Pension Plans in North America, is wholly owned by Ullico.
In dismissing the Internationals application and allowing the amendments, Madam Justice Martinson referred to Madam Justice Browns earlier decision that found McCarron acted in bad faith.
To further rub it in, the judge awarded the BC Carpenters with a special order of costs in any event of the cause, which means that regardless of whether we win or lose the main case next January, the International must pay our costs for this application.
Usually, when costs are awarded for an application in the middle of a proceeding, they are given to the winner as costs in the cause after the main trial is over. In this case, BC Carpenters will have this portion of their costs paid for by the UBCJA regardless of the outcome of the main trial.
In her reasons for awarding costs to the BC Carpenters, she referred to the political nature of the dispute between the International and the defendants.
Madam Justice Martinson is slated to be the presiding judge at the main trial in January,
The large general construction company has been organized into an all-employee agreement that will provide jobs for over 40 union carpenters for more than nine months. Paying union rates and full-benefits, the project is construction of more than $40 million of student residences at SFU in Burnaby.
We are successfully organizing more work for our members, said Smith, president of the Local whose members will be on the job. The organizing victory comes on the heels of the union signing Pac-Alta earlier this yearanother all-employee agreement that has provided good work for over 30 carpenters at UBC.
The more we organize, the stronger we become and the more power we have to set things straight in the construction industry, said Smith.
Dominion Fairmile is one of the busiest non-union contractors in British Columbia. The project is slated to start next month, according to Smith.
Consolidation just first step
Autonomy equates with organizing successes
by Doug McCorquodale
The closer we get to achieving our autonomy the more non-union contractors are approaching and talking with us about signing collective agreements. It is becoming patently obvious that achieving autonomy is a necessary prerequisite to moving the construction industry back to the union sector.
While many non-union contractors are ideologically opposed to unions and will resist unionization no matter what the cost, others take a practical approach and are prepared to do business with the union if their concerns are addressed. The major concern of these non-union contractors is the cronyism of the Building Trades and their jurisdictional disputes. The Jurisdictional Assignment Plan does not satisfy their concerns. They desire the flexibility of all-employee or wall-to-wall bargaining units. The pay rates are not the issue. The wrangling over who does what job on a construction site is the issue. The Building Trades are in serious decline. Their capacity to work for a solution is doomed because of their commitment to maintain the status quo.
Their assessment of the PCL and Farmer Construction application for consolidation of bargaining units is that it is the end for them if the application is successful.
Last year Farmer and later PCL filed an application for consolidation of their bargaining units. Consolidation means that an employer has multiple bargaining units and is seeking to have them merge into one. This means that the union members in each bargaining unit, through a vote, pick a single union to represent them.
The Building Trades are incorrect in their thinking that this will be the end of them if the Board renders a decision allowing consolidation with PCL and Farmer. In fact the Building Trades will continue to limp along a generally declining slope to obscurity whatever the Board decides. The deathblow was dealt many years ago to the building trades, starting with Bill 19 and followed by the Cicuto decision of the Board in the 1980s. Bill 19 made it extremely easy to decertify in construction and Cicuto legitimized wall-to-wall or all-employee units in construction. All-employee or wall-to-wall bargaining units means just one union per employer. The craft structure was fatally weakened at this point, if not before.
The PCL and Farmer applications for consolidation are stalled in preliminary wrangling at the Labour Relations Board. It will be quite some time before this issue is sorted out. One thing is certain, PCL and Farmer will achieve consolidation. The law in British Columbia allows it and the Board encourages it.
The Building Trades have been campaigning at the CLC to stop us getting our autonomy from the International. It will do them no good but, nevertheless, they are campaigning against us. They are no doubt frightened what their members will say to them when we get our autonomy. Simultaneously, the BC Labour Relations Code Review Committee has made recommendations to the government for Labour Code changes that will aid us in preventing the International from interfering with our affairs if the government makes the revisions.
See BOARD page 2
Code review recommends change
Board can make policy amendments
Contd from page 1
Union members, according to policy and law of the Labour Relations Board can only switch union affiliation with a majority vote, providing the national or international constitution does not prohibit an affiliation change. The Code Review Committee pointed out that the Board can change its policy and eliminate the national or international constitution provision as a consideration for a change in union affiliation.
The Code Review Committee has presented their report to the provincial government. It remains to be seen if there will be any change.
60th Convention welcomes FTQ delegates
Nearly 100 BC Carpenters Union Convention delegates from around the province stood in a rousing ovation for Quebec Carpenters Yves Mercure and Yves Ouellet who brought fraternal greetings and pledges of friendship and solidarity from the Fédération des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Québec (FTQ). FTQ to the Convention held from April 10-12, 2003.
Mercure talked of how his Local had only 39 members signed to their original charter when they broke from the International in 1981 and now they are the largest Carpenter Local in Canada with over 12,000 members. The two locals work closely together in the Fraternité National, sharing offices, resources and staff under a joint council.
Please see Convention Coverage page 4-5
Quebec fraternal delegates bring warm greetings of solidarity and friendship
BCPCC President Len Embree welcomes Yves Mercure, President of Local 9 (the largest Carpenters Union in Canada with 12,000 members, which broke away from the International in 1981 and joined the FTQ) and Yves Ouellet (seated) President of Local 2366 Interior Systems and Floorlayers which is also affiliated to the FTQ. Mercure said that BC Carpenters claims against the International are, Carbon copies of our claims at the end of the 1970s ... autonomy ... reasonable per capita ... and a democratic structure. Ouellet said he is proud to wear the BC Carpenters T-shirt because of the two messages on it: Constructing the Future, because thats exactly what we are doing today, and Canadian Autonomy because, We are sure that its the best way to achieve the goal of the first message.
Local 2300 member Carey Bagg was among 65 workers exposed to the toxic heavy metal thallium when they worked inside a boiler at Teck Cominco lead-zinc smelter in trail in 2001. Bagg, who had the highest exposure to the poison, which was once a popular rat poison, has suffered neurological damage symptoms ever since. WCB terminated his coverage based on the opinion of one Alberta doctor who admitted he knew little about thallium poisoning. He attributed Baggs chronic fatigue, muscle aches and stomach disorders to deconditioning (being out of shape).
Bagg, previously a vigorous, energetic worker, suffers muscle spasms, fatigue, headaches and sleep loss. On some days, he can hardly climb a set of stairs and knows there is no way he could complete a heavy days work.
Hall handled Baggs appeal, finding and interviewing three medical specialists who concluded Bagg clearly suffers the effects of thallium poisoning.
Local 2300 Business Agent Paul Nedelec said Hall has done a great job. It would have been impossible to win this case without her help, he said.
If Baggs didnt have the help of Hall and the union the first doctors report would have been the end of it for him, he explained. Noreen researched the problem, found doctors with the expertise to diagnose the problem and pushed the paperwork through. No injured worker could have done it on his own.
Teck Cominco was fined $270,000 by the WCB for not properly notifying the workers of the dangers of working in the boiler. This money will be allocated toward setting up a longterm health study of the Trail workers. Hall is slated to sit on the advisory committee that will guide the study which will be funded by WCB.
Council Comment by Dave Flynn
closure demanded on struggle that has gone on far too long
The 60th Convention of the BC Provincial Council of Carpenters was held April 10 through 12 at the Holiday Inn in Vancouver. Delegates from Local Unions and District Councils from all over British Columbia came together to review the events of the past year and to set down the direction they want their union to take in the coming year.
With most conventions a theme quickly develops, as delegates rise to speak on those issues they feel are most important. Consistent with the past several years, the issue that rose to prominence this year was once again the struggle for autonomy from the International. It was made abundantly clear by the delegates that the patience of the membership in BC is running thin. They want closure on this struggle that has gone on far too long; and they want their autonomy.
Resolutions were passed directing the Provincial Council to begin implementing the stand-alone constitution that was approved by referendum vote of the membership. The Council was also instructed to negotiate an affiliation agreement with a large Canadian Union that would provide protection from the International, as well as the autonomy we seek. The expectation expressed by the delegates was that this agreement should be reached quickly, and that it be taken to a referendum vote of the membership as soon as possible.
Special guests to this years convention, Brothers Yves Mercure and Yves Oulette from Fraternité Nationale in Quebec, spoke to the delegates about their unions struggle with the International and their ultimate victorythe establishment of a very successful independent union. Their union now represents
the overwhelming majority of carpenters, lathers and floor layers in the province of Quebec. Following Brother Mercures and Oulettes presentation the convention delegates solidly supported a resolution empowering the Provincial Council to establish a fraternal relationship with the Fraternité Nationale for the purpose of increasing our collective strength.
With all the difficulties that the Carpentry Workers Pension Plan and Benefit Plan have faced over recent times, the Plan Trustees report was also the subject of considerable debate. Given the hard decisions the Trustees have had to make with respect to reducing the benefits in both the Pension and Benefit Plans, the debate was often emotional, and sometimes critical. But the discussion was also generally constructive and, ultimately, very supportive of the Trustees and the staff. The delegates expressed a very sincere thank you to the staff and Trustees of the Pension and Benefit Plans for all of the hard work they have done in order to get the Plans back on stable footing.
A little out of the ordinary this year were two resolutions submitted by Local 2545, Quesnel School Board Employees, thanking the Provincial Council Executive Board and the real unsung heroes of our organization, the Provincial Council staff, for all their hard work throughout a very trying year. On a personal note I would like to thank, not just Local 2545 for submitting the resolutions and the delegates at convention who supported them, but the entire membership from around the province. You have been tremendously supportive of your union through some very difficult struggles, and through that support have made any accomplishments we have attained possible.
May 1 wage increase
On May 9, the Provincial Council Negotiating Committee finally reached an agreement with Construction Labour Relations on the allocation of the negotiated increases in the Carpenters Standard Agreement effective May 1, 2003. The Commercial/Institutional wage package was increased by 50 cents on jobs tendered after May 1, with 35 cents allocated to the Benefit Plan and 15 cents allocated to wages and holiday pay. All area framework rates for enabled projects were also increased by 15 cents for projects tendered after May 1. On Industrial projects the wage package was increased by 75 cents, with 35 cents allocated to Benefits and 40 cents allocated to wages and holiday pay.
In his speech, Payne outlined the social activism of his union in campaigns supporting public healthcare, in the fight for peace and against the war in Iraq, in the battle against privatization of BC and Ontario Hydro, in support of the Kyoto Accord on the environment, but especially the crusade against BC Premier Campbells appeasement of the Americans with his close to treason forest legislation.
Pledging solidarity, Payne said he has the greatest respect for the Carpenters Union in British Columbia and its commitment to progressive social unionism.
Of course, this is not the official line out of International headquarters in Washington, DC. They will insist that restructuring in Canada has increased membership, even though they officially report to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) that they only have 26,000 members in Canada now, compared to over 50,000 in 1996.
Outside of BC and Alberta, the UBCJA is in steep decline. In fact, the UBCJA in Canada has lost so many members that it has reached a point of severe dysfunction. The Provincial Council is in contact with numerous members and union officials from across Canada and it is clear that the present-day UBCJA is nothing short of a House-of-Cards.
Consider: Over 12 industrial plants of the UBCJA have been raided by other unions in the past seven years, most to the Steelworkers and the IWA. Over 3,000 industrial members have switched to other unions since 1996. Organizers from other unions report that the biggest issues for disgruntled UBCJA members are a lack of Canadian autonomy, little membership democracy, and unfair union representation.
One of these raided plants, KML Homes, is actually partly owed by the Ontario carpenter union pension funds. Jim Smith, the UBCJA Vice-President for Canada, sat on the company Board of Directors while the 100+ employees switched from carpenter union representation to the IWA last year.
And the bleeding continues in the industrial sector of the UBCJA. The Nova Scotia Labour Board confirmed that there is presently an application for decertification being processed by the 125 UBCJA members of Swedwood Canada Inc. (an Ikea furniture manufacturer) in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
While such losses should not be celebrated, they are understandable. According to sources connected to Swedwood, the members calculated that decertifying away from the UBCJA was the first step towards eventually gaining representation from a democratic Canadian union.
The story in the restructured construction sector of the International is even worse. Since 1996, the Universal Workers Union Local 183 (UWU), an autonomous affiliate of the Labourers union, has been so successful in its raiding of the UBCJA in Ontario that there are now more carpenters in the UWU in Ontario than there are in the Carpenters Union.
UWU is based on an all-employee model of organizing and representation, and was a minor player up until the UBCJA started its restructuring in 1996. Since then, the UWU has signed up over 5,000 carpenters and now performs most low-rise/ high-rise residential formwork and highway bridge work in Southern Ontario, paying higher rates than the UBCJA. The Toronto- area UBCJA locals have a combined total of 13,000 members while the UWU has 31,000 construction members.
It has also been confirmed that UBCJA Local 675 of Toronto, the largest UBCJA local in Canada, was put into trusteeship by the International in April, and that most of its leadership has been fired. Apparently, the trusteeship was prompted by a membership resolution instructing the Local to spend up to $1 million fighting the International in ongoing internal disputes. A key clash is that the local, which represents wall and ceiling members, has been in merger/ affiliations negotiations with the UWU. If this happens, the UWU will cement itself as the de facto construction union in Ontario, a trophy the UBCJA proudly held before General President Doug McCarron started his destructive restructuring.
Again, this potential loss of over 3,500 to the labourers is not something to celebrate. But it helps others to understand why BC members have concluded, time and time again, that the UBCJA is a poison and our only antidote is Canadian autonomy.
The Provincial Council doesnt claim to be perfect, nor do we have all the answers about organizing. But in recent months we signed up more members and new contractors than we have in preceding years. The tide is turning our way.
The International UBCJAs loss of membership in Canada proves that McCarrons American- style restructuring is bad for organizing. We need to go up, not down.
PRESIDENTS CORNER by Len Embree
What a whopper! The world according to Jim Smith
Just back from a few days off and wondering what to write in this column, when the latest masterpiece of misinformation from UBCJA Canadian Vice- President James Smith came across my desk. Usually I dont bother reading any of the Internationals propaganda, but I was in need of some comic relief. I wasnt disappointed. What a whopper! The world, according to Jim Smith not only his world, of course; now, he purports to speak for John Shields, Ken Georgetti, and the entire Canadian Labour Congress. Suffice it to say that Jim Smith remains confused as to the facts of the issue.
This attitude continues to be the main stumbling block toany meaningful dialogue between the International and us. Our position remains clear. Our membership has demonstrated by majority vote, through both convention resolution and referendum, their wish for autonomy.
In May, representatives from the CLC attended our Provincial Council Executive Board meeting and received from our unions entire Executive Board an expression of unequivocal, unanimous support for our position of requesting a justification vote. Jim Smith can peddle all the nonsense he wants its not going to change that fact.
The Provincial Council remains committed to the CLC justification process, but I wish to say to our members that we appreciate your frustration over the time that has passed in pursuing this approach. I also would like to assure you that everyone involved accepts that a conclusion has to be reached in the near future (see inset below).
Once again, we experienced a very positive convention. Good, healthy debate took place on all the issues that were presented.
I was very impressed with the dialogue around the presentation and acceptance of the Carpentry Workers Benefit and Pension Plan annual report. For some time, the International and their supporters have attempted to make this an issue in the autonomy debate. It was obvious after the reports acceptance that this attempt has failed. This is not to say that anyone is happy with the circumstances we find ourselves in with our benefit and pension plans, but our members figured out pretty quickly that the problems we faced were larger than an individual or individuals decision. Much to the chagrin, Im sure, of the Internationals supporters.
The Board of Trustees has a recovery plan in place; the Pension Plan is registered according to the legislation and everything the Trustees have done has been sanctioned by the Provincial Director of Pensions. The work that these individuals have done and the load they have carried over the last three years has been tremendous. They certainly deserve our thanks and respect for what they have accomplished.
Another high point of the convention was the attendance of several guest speakers. Dave Podmore of Concert Properties was quite optimistic in his forecast for upcoming work in the next year. Brian Payne, President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, was very reassuring in his expression of solidarity in our struggle for autonomy. Two brothers from the FTQ in Québec, Yves Mercure and Yves Ouellet, were somewhat of a special treat this year. Their message of support and their sharing of the history of their struggle with the International, to which they were once affiliated, was especially moving for the delegates. It was quite obvious that there is an ideological as well as a fraternal connection with these brothers. I look forward to strengthening our ties with their organization. Indeed, delegates adopted a resolution instructing the Provincial Council to move in this direction.
I have to commend the beleaguered Local Union 1995 delegates who rose to the challenge and were able to converse with Yves and Yves in the French language. I continue to be impressed by the considerable resources we have within our membership.
Local union elections
Elections are being held for Local Union executive committees and business agents. I would like to compliment all the candidates who have made a commitment to run for office in our union. It is neither the easiest nor the most popular time to be a trade union activist in our province. The time and effort required is considerable. All that being said, membership control of our union has been the very backbone of our existence and our struggle for autonomy. I urge all our membersto exercise their democratic right to vote in these elections.
There is a good possibility that we will be conducting a referendum vote over the summer months, and I look forward to meeting as many members as possible at their Local Union meetings.
Canadian Labour Congress Catch-22
The CLC justification procedure is close to impasse. President Georgetti will not process our application in accordance with the CLC constitution, claiming that we do not fall under that procedure. We disagree. The CLC has been trying to arrange a deal between the International and the BC Carpenters to have a vote. However, this has not been possible because of the Internationals intransigence. Why would the International ever agree to a vote when they know that they will lose?
The recent Provincial Council convention gave us authority to affiliate to a Canadian Union subject to approval by the membership. This is another option if the CLC procedure fails. However, what is required here is the Canadian union risking being thrown out of the CLC for taking us as an affiliate. The CLC would do this by charging this Canadian union with raiding.
The perfect Catch 22. We cant affiliate to any body directly without CLC permission. The CLC denies permission by saying we are not eligible. However, if we proceed, raiding charges will be applied as if we never asked for permission in the first place!
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