This past year has been a year of radical changes for the members of Local 592. Some very tough decisions had to be made and the membership decided to go down a new path to help ensure a future for our local and a secure future for this mill. Some people had to set aside some very basic union principles (including myself) in order to accept the changes needed for our survival, and yet other people have maintained those principles and unfortunately will do what ever it takes to make this agreement fail. I honestly admire and respect their loyalty to their principles but I just can’t understand why they would want this operation to fail and take the entire membership down with them. I too have principles and one of them is “to do what ever it takes for the benefit and welfare of the entire membership of this local”. I know when I say that, some of our laid off people are saying “what about us”? Those people are still living in a world of uncertainty with no clear vision of the future. Over the last few years we have tried to do everything possible for these people by providing some clarity on what their future at this mill may look like. This local negotiated an early retirement offer, an enhanced severance offer, and reluctantly accepted the 5 shift schedule in order to provide full time employment for some of our junior people. Unfortunately some of these people have, in the past, declined ordinary severance offers, job elimination severance offers and, most recently, enhanced severance offers and gambled on the possibility of steady employment. Unfortunately there were no guarantees of employment below the lay-off line. Every one in this local was well aware of the seniority needed to maintain full time employment after May 1st when we ratified the agreement last February. The facts are that these lay-offs would have happened at any rate regardless of the new agreement. Also the depth of these lay-offs would have been far deeper than January 1984. We would be trying to survive as a one machine operation and would probably be down by now. So perhaps one should think of all the people that could be adversely affected by adhering to one’s deep rooted principles.
Since May 1st we have had to adjust to new ways of training and how we relieve for manning shortages. Both are very contentious issues and are constantly being challenged by all concerned. The Wage Delegates meet every Wednesday with local management as well as Brian Johnson to discuss any new or outstanding issues resulting from the agreement. “Training” and “running lean” are usually on the agenda at these meetings and trying to find the ways and means to provide meaningful training and adequate relief for manning shortages in a cost effective manner is a challenge. After all, this whole exercise is about labour costs. We could choose to ignore the concerns of labour costs and just demand that we do things like we did in the past but I believe that the result would be no jobs to train for and no one left to relieve. We will continue to address concerns about training and relieving until we can come to a common sense resolve that meets everyone’s needs.
As every one is aware we are bound by this agreement for the next 5 years. We could put some effort into making this work or we can throw up roadblocks at every turn with the chance of losing everything. It’s your choice.
The remainder of the Catalyst locals are now in bargaining and I hope I speak for all in giving them all the support we can in order for them to achieve the industry pattern agreement. We are attending these negotiations as observers only and are bound by the protocol agreement of an information blackout. Details of these negotiations will not be made known to the general memberships until after a tentative agreement is reached. The pattern agreement will be implemented for Local 592 once the remainder of the Catalyst locals have ratified their respective agreements.
As I stated at the beginning of this article it been a very difficult year for everyone with numerous challenges that we all had to overcome. The next few years will be equally challenging with more contentious issues that we will all have to deal with. November is rapidly approaching and with that are the elections for the executive board for 2009. Now is the time to start contemplating what direction you think this local should take, considering the year we have just gone through. Now is also the time to consider running for a position on the Executive if you want to make a difference. I personally have not made a decision on my future but having said that, I’m not a quitter. I will consider my options over the next several weeks.
Please try and make every effort to come out for the October General Meeting and be a part of the decision making process of this local. As I have said before this union is what you make it, so take part.