April 13, 2015
On April 03, 2015 the Union ended negotiations with the District of Kitimat. The District extended another opportunity for the Union to accept the February 26, 2015 Final Offer by April 12, 2015. The Union declined that opportunity.
This morning the Union applied to the Labour Relations Board for the services of a Mediator. The District has agreed to participate in mediation.
The Mediator appointed today asked the parties to set aside May 01 – 04, 2015 as potential dates for initial meetings.
So far, Unifor 2300 has not commented on the announcement. However, Ron Poole said, District Chief Administrative Officer says both sides in the Kitimat dispute are making an effort with the Labour Relations Board to get things started faster, perhaps arranging a weekend meeting before the projected start on May 1.
Northwest Coast Energy News has confirmed postings on Facebook that said the District of Kitimat is using the services of a prominent Vancouver based employment firm, Harris and Co. If the two sides had not agreed to mediation, the law firm would have taken over the negotiations, Northwest Coast Energy News has confirmed.
Wills was hired by Prince George to serve as their chief spokesperson during collective bargaining with the Canadian Union of Public Employees locals 1048 and 399. Wills’ work helped by city to reach an agreement with CUPE after a year of negotiations. However, the city refused a request under for the Freedom of Information Act from the Prince George Citizen to find out how much Wills was paid. The Prince George budget says it pays Harris and Co. $25,000 a year.
According to Wills’ Linked In profile, she speaks fluent Portuguese.
The profile on the law firm website says:
Adriana represents a broad range of clients in both the private and public sectors. These include clients in the forest, manufacturing, service, chemical industries, local government, health care and, educational industries. She provides the full scope of legal services to those clients including: strategic planning; risk management; collective bargaining; policy development; training; and, advocacy. Adriana believes in providing practical solutions to the legal challenges faced by clients.
Wills has been with Harris and Co. since 1992. She is also an activist on mental health issues.
After both sides in the Capilano dispute agreed to mediation, the Capilano Faculty Association agreed to suspend its strike action. The university will resume operations Tuesday. Exams will begin on Thursday, April 16 and end Friday, April 24.
The District of Kitimat employees walked off the job just before midnight on February 28. There is no indication whether or not Unifor 2300 will suspend the strike as the Capilano Faculty Association has)
Tuesday night’s District of Kitimat Council meeting, crowded with striking members of Unifor 2300 deteriorated to what became a shouting match between the bargaining committee and Mayor Phil Germuth.
If the hostility and anger continue, it is quite likely the strike will last for months. The fallout will last much longer. It is often said that the bitterness following a strike is directly proportional to its length and the repercussions can last for a decade or more.
That is not good for the future of Kitimat.
There’s talk of mediation, and that’s a good idea, but mediation only works when both sides are willing to sit down and actually listen and talk through the issues. So mediation doesn’t appear to be practical, at least for a few weeks, until both sides are feeling a lot more pain, which is unfortunate.
Even if mediation isn’t possible at the moment, it’s time for both sides to stop and bring in some outside experts, experts with cool heads and no personal axes to grind, to guide each side in the negotiations.
Do they know what they’re doing? Unifor 2300, apparently not as stunt, but to get their point across, attempted a clause by clause negotiation of certain points at public meeting of council, in front of a partisan crowd. Negotiating in public seldom works, especially if the other side isn’t really listening.
Do they know what they’re doing? It appears that mayor and council didn’t bother to actually take a copy of the union offer and read it, at least so they would know what the District bargaining committee was doing. “Did anybody on council actually look at the whole document? No. We didn’t ask for it, we asked, give us an update,” Mayor Phil Germuth said. (Having been through the 2005 CBC lockout, I know that most union members do look carefully at the proposed changes in a contract, especially if there is trouble on the horizon. Management usually does the same. In this case, council is the responsible body and should have taken the time to actually read the proposals.)
There is too much confusion and contradictory statements from mayor, staff and council over the timeline of when they saw the offer from Unifor, even it was just a summary.
The trouble with a small town like Kitimat is that this has already become too personal, and both sides are losing perspective. That’s why cooler, outside heads are needed.
UPDATE: Deescalation not Escalation
A few moments after this analysis was initially posted, Mayor Phil Germuth issued a open letter, threatening to withdraw the District’s offer:
If the Final Offer is not accepted by the Union by Sunday, April 12, 2015 at 4 p.m. the offer will be withdrawn. The District will then retain the services of an external negotiator who will have the mandate to conclude a Collective Agreement. That negotiator can make decisions on the best way to achieve this goal, including mediation or arbitration.
When this piece was written, our idea of bringing in outside experts was to deescalate the volatile situation, not escalating and making it worse. If the District of Kitimat brings in a hard ball “outside negotiator” that will be a long term disaster for the region, even if a settlement is reached (or forced), because as we say above the long term bitterness could last for a decade or more. When we said an outside negotiator respected by both management and labour, we meant just that, an expert in industrial relations that can deescalate the anger. One has to wonder just who is advising mayor and council on this issue?
In this analysis calling for Unifor 2300 to also bring in outside experts, we were hoping for deescalation, in a small town where the dispute has become very personal. If the District brings in that outside negotiator, Unifor 2300 will have to call headquarters and bring in the “big guns” and call for national support (which has happened in other labour disputes).
Unless there is immediate deescalation, the situation can only get worse.
Get on the phone
That means Unifor 2300 business agent Martin McIlwrath, Unifor Local 2301 President Rick Belmont who does have some experience, and the rest of the bargaining team should get on the phone to Unifor headquarters today and ask that an experienced negotiations facilitator and an experienced researcher get on a plane for Kitimat immediately and stay here for the duration. (McIlwrath has told reporters he has consulted with other labour leaders by phone. That’s not good enough. This situation needs experts here, on the ground).
For Unifor 2300 members, part of your dues goes to union headquarters, so that’s what you’re paying for. A “One Big Union,” which is what Unifor is, has bench strength for situations like this.
For Mayor Phil Germuth and CAO Ron Poole, that means immediately hiring an experienced industrial relations consultant, one who is respected by both management and labour, who can also tell the obviously dysfunctional negotiating team what works and what doesn’t.
A union researcher and the staff of the labour relations consultant could soon find out what (from their perspective) what is economically feasible given the uncertainty of Kitimat’s future.
The Immediate Problem: No picket line protocol
It was very clear at the council meeting on March 2, when there was a loud picket line at the meeting and now with the secondary picketing of the museum and the public library, that Unifor 2300 has failed to establish a proper picket line protocol.
Old time union activists may not like it, but the idea of “never crossing a picket line” is becoming obsolete in the 21st century, especially in situations where there is no longer one single plant gate. These days what usually happens where striking or locked out workers may be picketing office buildings where there are other businesses or where members of other bargaining units may still be working is to establish a picket line protocol.
The accepted procedure these days is to establish a waiting time before entering a location. Often this is even agreed between management and the union (where they are still on speaking terms) before a strike or lockout begins.
In 1999, the CBC management locked out the then technicians’ union, NABET/CEP. The Canadian Media Guild had settled and was bound by the no strike/lockout clause in the collective agreement. That meant everyone else; CMG, non-union staff and management crossed the NABET/CEP picket lines. The protocol was that everyone waited ten minutes before entering the buildings. At shift change the lines could be quite long and sometimes the wait was as long as a half hour (in Toronto, in January, in the snow).
By the time of the 2005 lockout, NABET at CBC had merged with the Canadian Media Guild and everyone was out. Protocols were put in place, management and non-union staff lined up for ten minutes before entering the building.
Similar protocols are put in place elsewhere. There have even been cases where truckers entering a multi-company facility wait for ten or fifteen minutes before being waved through. In some of the recent university disputes, students and non-striking staff have had to wait in line before entering campuses.
The other problem is the secondary picketing of the museum and library. Neither are parties to the core dispute, although they do receive funding from the District. Museum staff are non-union and library staff are members of CUPE. So the employees at both locations are not part of the dispute.
The other problem is that with the library there is collateral damage for the users, especially for students who may want to complete assignments as the school year comes to an end. Students have already been hurt by the teachers’ disputes and this is another burden on their education. Did the Unifor 2300 leadership think about that?
In addition, secondary pickets are usually information or leafleting pickets. If Unifor wants to continue to picket the library and museum, it should be clear that line is for information only. If Unifor continues to insist on picketing the two institutions, (which is unfair to those involved) there should be a wait time protocol. Unifor should call CUPE and agree on one. The museum non-union staff should follow whatever CUPE and Unifor agree to.
If, in the future, Unifor wants to picket council meetings, which is a democratic and elected body, even if it is party to the dispute, and should be free and open to the public, then a proper waiting time protocol should be either negotiated or, if the union moves unilaterally, they must make it clear what the protocol is.
The labour relations earthquake
As we found out this week, with the study of the Haida Gwaii earthquake, a tremor happens when locked in strain is suddenly released. So the Kitimat labour relations earthquake was caused when grievances going back 30 years landed on the table this year.
Why were the grievances, the strain, allowed to build up for three decades? There is obviously blame on both sides. At Tuesday night’s meeting, there were shouts of bring back Joanne Monaghan. Really? Monaghan was a member of council or mayor for most of those 30 years when the problem was building.
Why put all the blame on the current council, which only took office in December? Two members of Council, Larry Walker and Claire Rattée are brand new. Phil Germuth was on council for one term and only became mayor a few months ago. Other council members have been there a lot longer.
Both CAO Ron Poole and Deputy Warren Waycheshen are fairly new as well, but they should have been aware of the problems. As far back as early fall, the District’s senior staff told me they were expecting fairly smooth negotiations. My Unifor sources now tell me, at the same time, the union was conducting extensive research on other collective agreements to look for language to improve the poor work environment at the District of Kitimat.
The responsibility here lies with the line managers of the District. What did they know and when did they know it? Did they tell Poole, Waycheshen, mayor and council that there were problems escalating? If the line managers knew and didn’t tell, they should be fired. If they didn’t know, then their management of their departments is incompetent, or if they were ignoring the problems, as my union sources allege, then they are part of the problem. If everyone knew and did nothing about it, then that raises questions about management incompetence across the board. Again heads should roll. (And staff managers shouldn’t make snide comments in a public meeting about speakers before council, especially if those managers sit beside the media table. It shows they’re unprofessional and bolsters the union’s case).
There is also blame on the union. Labour relations were not an issue during the municipal election. If the problems have been building for 30 years, why wasn’t it an issue?
Members of Unifor 2300 can’t shout “Why did I vote for you?” If what the union calls “a poisoned work environment” has existed for years, why did it never come up during the election or the debates? In any situation where a labour dispute is building, the rumblings inside the shop and outside are obvious months in advance. If the line managers and senior managers were either ignoring the problems or were part of the problem, then it was the responsibility of Unifor 2300 to make it an issue in the election.
Salaries and management
Given the current situation in Kitimat, the current high salaries for senior staff are somewhat justified. Kitimat is not just a small town, it is a small town working with at least four major industrial projects, the Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat Modernization Project, Shell-led LNG Canada, Chevron-led Kitimat LNG and the Altagas floating LNG project. This involves negotiations and meetings with both government and corporate officials with even much higher pay grades. There is also the ongoing issue of trying to mend the long history of poor relations with the Haisla Nation.
The workload for senior staff has been increased exponentially in the past four or five years. I am told by sources that burnout is becoming a factor and that staff, both management and union, involved in industrial development, infrastructure and related issues are taking lots of time in lieu, since most don’t get overtime. Some members of the professional staff are members of the Unifor 2300 bargaining unit. That means workload and burnout for those professional members should also be an issue, one that hasn’t, so far, been raised in union media releases.
Here again we see a lack of leadership, both with current management and with the current and previous councils. Any competent manager would have understood that the high salaries for senior staff, however justifiable those salaries may be, would bring questions from the union rank and file and would be a factor in current contract negotiations. (If none of the LNG projects actually proceed, then the salaries for managers and professionals will have to be reassessed).
At Monday’s meeting, Phil Germuth said the District had decided to hire a health and safety manager? Why now? Why not years ago? This is a town that lives and breathes on health and safety briefings. Every time, as a member of the media, I visit the RTA Smelter, the Bish Cove site or any other construction or industrial site, I get a health and safety briefing. If you go fishing, whether it’s on a charter or with a friend, there is safety briefing before leaving the dock. This seems to prove the union’s contention that health and safety was a low priority with the District.
If the District is going to hire a health and safety manager, why not also hire a Human Resources Manager? The current HR staff at the District are “overworked payroll clerks” (to quote a union source). A qualified HR manager would take that burden off the administrative officers, be aware of proper industrial relations procedures and negotiations practices and be the manager who would implement and enforce anti-harassment procedures.
The one group caught in the middle of all this are the summer students. Summer students are hired by many organizations to fill in for vacationing staff and to work on special projects. Summer students should not, as the union is claiming, be used to ensure that casual staff do not get enough hours to qualify for seniority. Reducing the number of summer students, however, is going to have a long term negative effect on the community. Jobs for young people are far too scarce, student loans are becoming such a burden that Millennials who have graduated and those who actually have jobs, can’t afford to buy houses. A lack of summer jobs in Kitimat would be an incentive for young people to leave town or if they are away at college or university, to stay away. Unifor is also not doing the future of the union movement any good by alienating a new generation of potential union members. The summer student program should be restored as much as possible.
Senior and youth health
In a larger community, youth counselling and medically necessary therapeutic pool or gym exercise for seniors and those with disabilities could move to other venues. In Kitimat that is not an option since there are no other locations, so an interim agreement to resume those activities should be high on the agenda—if both sides actually resume talking.
The future of Kitimat’s economy
Today Royal Dutch Shell, the main company behind the LNG Canada project, took over BG Group which had proposed an LNG project at Prince Rupert. The price of oil is bobbing around the $50 a barrel mark. That means David Black’s refinery project, which depended on high oil prices is “vital signs absent.” The long term prospects for the LNG market are good given the increased demand in Asia. The short term prospects are poor, given that the energy sector’s income from oil has dropped and that means those companies have less money to spend on new projects.
The council is being prudent in refusing to lock itself in to long term expenditures based on projects that may never materialize. At the same time, the cost of living in Kitimat, up until recently a mini-Fort McMurray, has skyrocketed. That means the union request for a salary increase should not have been unexpected. It also means that a large number of Kitimat residents, who are paying more for goods and services, many of whom do not have the higher paying project jobs, cannot really afford an increase in property taxes. A compromise on this is essential.
That’s why outside experts, with cool heads, research staff and no personal stake in 30 odd years of hostility, should be brought in to bring both sides to an agreement as soon as possible.
Disclosure: I am the current chair of the Board of Directors of the Kitimat Museum and Archives. My term expires at the end of May. I am a retiree member of the Canadian Media Guild/Communications Workers of America from my time at CBC. When I freelance, depending on whether or not the specific job is covered in a collective agreement (some are, some are not) I work under CMG jurisdiction for CBC and the wire services and under Unifor jurisdiction for Global TV and certain newspapers. In 2005, CBC management locked out employees from August 15 to October 10. During the period of the lockout, my assigned “picket” duty was as one of the CMG’s official photographers.
CORRECTION: This post has been corrected. The events took place on Tuesday, not Monday.
Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan has slammed Douglas Channel Watch for a “disrespectful” demonstration held during the ceremony that saw the transfer of land from the province of BC to the Haisla Nation. BC Premier Christy Clark came to Kitimat for the event.
There were two groups of protesters across Haisla Boulevard from the transfer ceremony. While some were from Douglas Channel Watch, the vast majority were striking teachers.
In an e-mail from Monaghan to District staff and to Margaret Ouwehand, who handles e-mail traffic for the environmental group, obtained by Northwest Coast Energy News, Monaghan wrote about the protest:
This was not respectful to the Haisla. This was one of the greatest moments in the government between the Hasila and DOK and all we could hear were blaring horns. How disrepectful and a shame on our community. It would have been so much more cultured if that could have waited for an hour until the ceremony was concluded.
In the original notice of the protest sent to Northwest Coast Energy News and Douglas Channel Watch subscribers on Monday, Ouwehand wrote:
It is important to remain respectful of the Haisla event and to indicate our support their position regarding Enbridge
At the beginning of her remarks at the ceremony, Monaghan also said, “First I would just like to apologize for some of the noise in the background and the disrepectfulness of what’s happening at this great, great celebration, we’re having with the Haisla people today.”
It was clear for reporters who went across Haisla Boulevard to cover the demonstration that teachers, who began a full-scale strike on Tuesday, far outnumbered the handful of Douglas Channel Watch demonstraters in front of the “Downtown Kitimat” sign. It was mostly the teachers who lined Haisla Boulevard and waved signs, encouraging passing traffic to honk in support. Most teachers continued to protest while some members of Douglas Channel Watch left the protest to attend the ceremony that marked the return of the old hospital lands to the Haisla Nation.
UPDATE: District sprinklers disrupted teacher demonstration
At least three rallies are planned for Kitimat on Tuesday, June 17, as BC Premier Christy Clark is scheduled to arrive to announce a new agreement with the Haisla Nation and, a few hours later, the Harper government will announce its decision on approving the Northern Gateway project.
The Harper government is expected to approve the highly controversial pipeline, terminal and tanker project and once that happens, it is likely that Kitimat will be the focus of protests against (and perhaps for) Northern Gateway.
District Council was told Monday, June 16, that the RCMP and District staff have had meetings to come up with contingency plans if large numbers of protesters come to Kitimat in the future.
Answering a question from Councillor Phil Germuth, Staff Sergeant Phil Harrison, Kitimat detachment commander told Council that RCMP had met with Kitimat deputy chief administrative officer Warren Waycheshen to discuss the groups they were aware of that might be protesting in Kitimat.
“It’s actually hard to plan for some of them, we don’t know how large they’re going to be, “Harrison told Councl, “There are all sorts of different factors that go into coming up with an operational plan for any kind of a demonstration
“We’ve talked about where we may be able to hold demonstrations, how we are going to do accommodate the people, what are we going to do for sanitation,
what we are going to do for garbage collection. all that kind of stuff,” the staff sergeant said.
“Until we get more information regarding what kind of demonstration it’s going to be, it’s hard to plan for. We do encourage any leaders of any organization that’s going to be demonstrating to come and chat with us.
:Demonstrations are fully legal in Canada. We have no problems with those. Our concern is when it comes to the safety of the public and so, therefore, if there isanything we can do to help to mitigate any kind of problems that might arise if the safety of the public, we’d like to know that before hand.”
Waycheshen said it was up to Council to set policy but noted that the staff has been working on long term plans, saying. ‘We do a lot of pre-planning and then just wait to see if it comes or not.”
Waycheshen said that while the RCMP and District staff have studied the more obvious locations, “as the RCMP point out, there are certain times when people won’t congregate where you want them to, so we have to work around their locations.’
“We’ve looked at the need for water, porta-potties, meals and stuff,” Waycheshen said. “It’s always tough until you know the numbers When they come in, are they going to be self sufficient or not?
“We’ve talked to our suppliers to make them aware that this could be happening at short notice, so they’re aware of it,
“We’ve done as much as we can And almost like the emergency plan, we’ve talked to the emergency planning group for the District. There might be a point where we activate the EOC [Emergency Operations Centre] plan, not to treat it as an emergency but to give you a lot more flexibility to react in a quick way.”
“Some of the suppliers say we should be able to get you this and that, but we will have to know at the time.
“It’s really contingent on when they’re coming in. Our purchasing department has been really good about contacting people, this is the potential of what we could
It all starts on Tuesday when Premier Clark is scheduled to arrive at the old hospital site to announce the agreement with the Haisla.
Douglas Channel Watch says it plans to rally at the “Downtown Kitimat” sign across the street from the hospital site at 10:45. Kitimat’s teachers who will officially be on strike on Tuesday, plan their own rally at Centennial Park at the same time.
The Harper government will announce its decision on the Northern Gateway shortly after 4 p.m. Eastern Time, after the market close in the east, 1 p.m, Pacific Time.
Shortly after the government announcement, Douglas Channel Watch will then hold a second rally in Centennial Park.
CAW Local 2301 president Rick Belmont said the union received a 72 hour lockout notice this afternoon and the union responded with a strike notice.
RTA spokeperson Colleen Nyce says issuing lockout and strike notice is standard practice during negotiations.
Both sides say negotiations will continue through the weekend.
If there are picket lines it could be a confusing and possibly volatile situation because the Kitimat Modernization Project is on the same site with a work camp full of construction workers on RTA property.
Most construction workers are employed or contracted by Bechtel, the construction contractor and are not members of CAW 2301.
Updated with Rio Tinto Alcan statement and CAW negotiations bulletin
Rio Tinto Alcan and Bechtel are proposing to bring in temporary foreign workers for the Kitimat Modernization Project, because, according to a letter from Bechtel obtained by Northwest Coast Energy News, a “labour shortage” is “a possible risk to the project schedule.”
The letter was sent by Dawn Perry, Field Contracts Manager, to Bechtel/RTA contractors on April 30.
The key paragraph in the letter says
Over the past several months, Bechtel and RTA have been working with government agencies to understand and establish a process to bring Temporary Foreign Workers to the project in the event there is a shortage of qualified craft workers in British Columbia and Canada. The process will benefit Contractors on the KMP that may experience labour shortages.
The Bechtel letter does say the company is consulting with trades unions involved
It is imperative that we all work together to identify labour needs in advance to provide the Building Trades Unions sufficient time to provide qualified labour.
Bringing in temporary foreign workers, whether by RTA, Bechtel or a contractor, must be approved by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
In past news conferences, RTA managers have said there are problems in getting skilled workers or contractors for the $3.3 billion project, due to high demand locally from the proposed liquified natural gas projects and labour shortage as far away as the bitumen sands at Fort McMurray. On the other hand, there are continuing complaints from contractors who say that even trying to bid on a KMP project is a bureaucratic nightmare. There are also complaints that people from the Kitimat region that they are still are on waiting lists for jobs at KMP.
Colleen Nyce, a spokesperson for Rio Tinto Alcan in Kitimat said, “We actually hope to not have to hire temporary foreign workers. We prefer to hire from the local area and BC. This will, among other things, keep our costs down to hire from this jurisdiction.
“As of the present time, we have 54 per cent local workforce on the Kitimat Modernization Project. We are very proud of this. However, we are now entering the stage where, within the next four months we will be seriously ramping up the construction schedule and will need to hire qualified craft on a quick turn around basis.
“Since Notice to Proceed was given to KMP on December 1st, 2011, our Project burn rate is $3.1 million/day. We therefore cannot risk the project with workforce shortage issues and delays.
“As a precautionary measure, and given the length of time to receive government approvals, we made application for Temporary Foreign Workers, from the United States only, back in January. Our application for this has been supported by the unions affiliated with our project. We routinely have labour studies and labour surveys completed, as do the unions, and all intelligence is advising us that we will most likely be facing a skilled labour shortage.
Nyce says RTA is looking at: “All craft – electricians, carpenters, pipefitters; operators to name a few. We must search across Canada first. We are partnered with 16 different building trades unions. All of these unions have connections and members across the province, country and some into the United States.”
The date of the letter is already causing concern in Kitimat, coming as it does at almost the same time as Rio Tinto Alcan presented Canadian Auto Workers Local 2301 with a series of tough initial contract proposals that would see all but the most core jobs at the aluminum smelter contracted out.
Nyce, however, says, “This has absolutely nothing to do with BC Operations negotiations with CAW Local 2301.”
RTA locked out 780 United Steelworker members at the Alma, Quebec, smelter on December 31. The USW says talks with RTA broke down over the use of subcontractors and contracting out. RTA says its over all aluminum production dropped 12 per cent to 520,000 tonnes in the first quarter of 2012, mainly due to the lockout in Quebec, where smelter production dropped by about two-thirds.
There are already rumours in Kitimat that the temporary foreign workers would be used to keep the Kitimat Modernization Project on schedule in the case of a lockout or strike at the smelter itself.
The company’s position on the modernized smelter was an insult to the Union, tore away any sense of credibility that may have existed and has set the stage for a collision at this set of negotiations.
Rio Tinto Alcan has presented the union with a long list of jobs that would be contracted out but where those contractors would be working alongside union members in the new smelter and nearby locations.
CAW 2301 is now considering its response to RTA. There are membership meeting this week.
In an phone interview, Ken Lewenza, president of the CAW, said Tuesday, “I am not totally convinced that there is a shortage of worker problem with a little under 10 per cent unemployment. The real problem is where is the work and how do we fit the skills of our Canadian work force to meet those particular requirements and if for any reason we can’t do that based on knowledge, based on recognizing the kind of skills that are needed and how you prepare workers who are working in precarious situations who are unemployed, how we can better prepare for these kind of work opportunities, I think what government is doing, employers contractors, are seeing foreign workers as the first priority when it should be that absolute last.”
As for the rumours that temporary foreign workers could be used to keep the KMP going or even become possible replacement workers, Lewenza said, “If foreign workers were to replace our members at 2301 at a time we’re in labour negotiations, as replacement workers, then that would lead to a huge confrontation, at a time when quite frankly it’s not necessary. The whole idea of bringing in foreign workers is if there is a shortage of labour, a labour disruption isn’t a shortage of labor, it’s a shortage of getting a collective bargaining agreement.”
The RTA contract proposals were also on the table at Monday’s District of Kitimat Council meeting, where Councillor Phil Germuth led off the discussion by saying that he was disappointed by the RTA proposals, saying that over the past several years council has granted RTA every variance and development proposal it wanted and has agreed to forgo $7 million in tax revenue for the Kitimat Modernization Project, and, “We were promised there was going to be about 1000 jobs, now they are down to 700. I find it hard to believe that they would propose 300 job losses and not expect any problems at all, This council and previous councils have been working with them and now to have another 300 jobs cut that’s a big disappointment.”
Sources have told Northwest Coast Energy News that some members of middle and upper management at the Kitimat smelter are also not happy with the contract proposals, which together with the Alma lockout, are bringing back a corporate culture clash between the former Alcan management and the different attitudes brought to Canada by Rio Tinto, a London based multinational.
A group calling itself Off the Podium, led by former Olympian Bruce Kidd, is asking the London 2012 Olympic committee (LOCOG) to drop RTA as the official supplier of gold, silver and bronze for athletes’ medals.
Signed by Steelworkers National Director Ken Neumann, the complaint asserts that Rio Tinto’s actions in Alma violate the Games’ ethical procurement standards because they consist of an illegally-declared lockout, serious and significant violations of the workers’ health and safety, shirking its obligations by sub-contracting out work to low paid workers, and paying wages and benefits below industry benchmark standards. Neumann’s complaint letter goes on to request that LOCOG follow its ethical guidelines to reject Rio Tinto as a supplier.
Bechtel’s April 30 letter to contractors about bringing in Foreign Temporary Workers