Bargaining Committee Newsletter
January 5, 2007
On January 4th , your Bargaining Committee received the first official reply to our language issues and are very disappointed with the answers on most issues. We know this is only step one of the process but it is disheartening to see this when we were expecting a different approach from the Company than last time (2004).
The companyís new ownership is projecting in the workplace and community an image that they are changing. In some ways they are and we look forward to those changes but the reality is the old bosses are the new bosses and the workplace has experienced little change especially in the mines.
While Xstrata Nickel might be giving money to the community, investing in Fraser Morgan, approaching Health and Safety with new intensity and stating they want a new relationship with the Union, the reports from the workers is that there has been little change in the frontline relationship. The employees feel there are mixed messages in place and they question the managementís past record of not living up to their promises at the table.
In 2000/1, your bargaining committee faced an outright attack on seniority when the company management wanted every one of the seven work sites to be an individual Business Unit. This sounds harmless enough until you read the bottom line that when any site, like Lockerby, had a layoff or closed they would layoff only the workers there, with no bumping rights to other sites regardless of how much seniority. The other problem was the company had reduced hiring employees and was contracting out the labour to the lowest bidder, stealing a worker and his community of the long term security that a collective agreement with pension and benefits brings. After seven months on strike, we returned to work with an agreement that had turned back the vicious attack but with many changes still forced on us including less Health, Safety and Union representation.
In 2004 your bargaining committee faced another attack on our future and we went on strike to protect our work place from contractors on the sites and taking over Nickel Rim South.
We received assurance from the company both times that they would live up to what was promised at the table, that they would work at hiring employees to do our collective agreement work and thereby reduce the contractors on site. It has taken five years for the arbitration on contracting out to be heard, and the arbitrator stated he would rule in the favor of the Union thereby proving the company was not living up to promises of 2001 and 2004 to reduce contractors doing our collective agreement work. An agreement in principle has been reached that will attach certain conditions before a contractor can be embedded on crews.
This time our 2007 bargaining committee has made an attempt at the bargaining table to move forward and create the new relationship that Xstrata ownership is talking about and to get past the remaining 100 grievances. Over the last six years, 1000 + grievances were filed and we want to start fresh in 2007. We have managed to clean up all but three direct differences and a couple of discipline cases that will need a third party ruling.
Was there justice for all the grievances the last six years, hell no, we could not afford to send hundreds of grievances to arbitration and many legitimate grievances did not advance. We are hoping the new relationship they are asking to create will have "fair and equitable" built into it.
In trying to unravel years of harsh relationship, we have asked the HR department to throw away their "no" stamps that forced almost all the 1000 + grievances to the arbitration file and allow the frontline of the leadership between P&M and management to resolve the issues and have less of a HR controlled relationship. The stories that many chief stewards have heard from their site management was that "it was HR that was denying the grievances". This issue was brought up at negotiation and the Unionís bargaining committee was really surprised to hear from the Company that it was not the HR department that was making the "no" calls, but it was site management that controlled the outcome of grievances. This type of "point the finger at the other guy" has us confused as to who is who in the company and raises questions on the new projected image of a better relationship in the future.
From the experience of broken promises and mixed messages as to who answers the companies side of the collective agreement, itís hard to believe in what we agree at the table today, will be upheld tomorrow by these or any new bosses without grievances and arbitrations.
The Union has been very flexible over the years to adjust to some of the management ideas. If the company is sincere about creating a new management and P&M worker relationship, at all levels, then they must demonstrate this at the table. They must be true to their words and not just dance to get past 2007 bargaining; otherwise it would leave us with another three years of past practices which will once again result in hundreds of grievances and a poor working relationship.
In the past we had come to agreements on many issues but a couple of management shuffles later the new bosses would alter the intent and the fight is on for the Union to have the Company live by the intent of our Collective Agreement. In the joint agreements on extended shifts, the companyís 2004 unilateral decision on the intent of vacation allotment and payment is one that affects our workers, in a negative way. We have a direct difference grievance on this issue that can be settled at the table, if the Company chooses, or we will be fighting it in arbitration.
The remaining language issues, that we are committed to resolve, are job security, seniority, posting, vacation and union representation.
We are working hard at achieving our goal of a fair and equitable collective agreement before the deadline but without any meaningful change or insurances of change at the table, the challenge of reaching a deal by January 31st, 2007 may be difficult to accomplish.
We are scheduled to meet the Company, with the conciliator, on Monday Jan 8, 2007 at 1:00 p.m.
Richard Paquin Rick Grylls
Brian Castilloux Jack McGrath
Jan Romo Gord Lamothe
Rejean Berthiaume Jeff Mullally