On April 20th the Union met with Management to review documents that we had recently received relating to the organizational plans for the modernized smelter. These documents contained a breakdown of the different organizations that are planned for the modernized smelter as well as indications on the number of employees who will perform the jobs. In 2007 we negotiated a Transition Committee, which has, as part of its mandate, the responsibility to work through all aspects of the transition from old to new technology. In order to carry out its work, the Transition Committee has been trying to get hold of the company’s plans for years and it was only now that they chose to share them with us. The last page of the package of documents was a list of the jobs that the company plans to contract out once they reach “steady state.”
The Union did an initial review of the documents trying to understand and identify what the company was up to. Much of the terminology was different although the direction the company was taking started to become clear. At the meeting, representatives from KMP and local management gave us an overview explaining some things and answering some of our questions. 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.
Our 2007 agreement was reached based on commitments the company made assuring the Union certain work would remain within the scope of the bargaining unit. We signed a Terms Of Reference before agreeing to re-open the collective agreement and in that document we were assured there would be a minimum of 850 bargaining unit positions. This was a number the company was comfortable with and Paul Henning was openly commenting to the Union that it could even be as much as 1000 positions. One other provision of note was that the agreement that we would work together to identify jobs which could be performed by the bargaining unit thereby reducing the overall impact to the workforce. There was a spirit of working together as we move forward and with these commitments the Union agreed to re-open the collective agreement and gave the company a 5-year contract. This wasn’t a decision reached easily by the Union and was the first time the CAW in Kitimat had agreed on a long-term contract.
So what did we learn from the meeting we had?
1. Regarding the 2007 commitment for a minimum of 850 bargaining unit employees, the Union believes the Company proposed different numbers to the board of directors long before they received the notice to proceed on Dec 1, 2011. This shows a blatant disrespect for what was agreed to with the Union in 2007. The Company didn’t inform the Union at any time until we saw this in the documents we received in mid April. The new number of bargaining unit employees planned for the modernized smelter is 699.
2. In 2007 we agreed to define the “permanent jobs” in the modernized smelter as jobs that are continuing and/or jobs that are corresponding. The continuing jobs are the ones we currently perform that will be done in the new smelter. The corresponding jobs are the ones that will be done in the new smelter which correspond to jobs currently done. The company has reneged on this commitment and have included many of these jobs on the list which will be contracted out. Once again, the company never came to the Union to inform us of what they were planning.
3. The company has made these decisions with the full understanding that they aren’t consistent with what was agreed to in 2007. The company told us that what was agreed in 2007 ends with the expiry of the collective agreement. Furthermore, we were told that their definition of “core” jobs has changed and that “core” is something we can only train employees at an aluminum smelter to do. They compare the jobs done here to what they do back east so if its not done by the regular workforce back there it won’t be done here.
Most of the direction indicated here is the same or worse than what the workers in Alma are presently locked out for. In spite of changes in the company philosophy we have a collective agreement that was built on a relationship between the parties. More recently, we reached agreements in good faith on what it would take to re-open our contract and sign a five-year agreement. These agreements were expressly tied to a modernized smelter, we agreed which types of jobs would be done by the bargaining unit in the modernized smelter.
To give you a flavour of what the company is planning to contract out, some of the “activities” contained in their document were:
Butt and green anode transportation – we know this as trucking paste from the south end to the north end.
Anode stems assembly repair – we know this as stud building, assembly and repair (this specific job was used as an example in 2007 and the company stated up and down for the recorded minutes that it would be our work).
Alumina and bath transportation – we know this as the transportation and handling of alumina and bath.
Potlining and delining – we know as potlining and demolition.
Pot shell repair – similar name/duties.
Pot super structure repairs – we know as a function of our welders.
Janitorial work – similar name/duties
*There were 23 additional “activities” the company listed to be contracted out in the modernized smelter.
As you can see, the examples given take contractors right inside our day-to-day activities. This was never contemplated when we reached agreement with the company and it represents a major break in credibility as we enter into 2012 negotiations.
We are presently putting together our demands for articles 23 and 24 as they relate to job security. All members and activists are encouraged to attend meetings this week for more information.
Steering Committee Meeting – Wednesday May 9th @ 7pm.
Membership Meetings – Thursday May 10th @ 7pm
Friday May 11th @ 7am
Issued by CAW Local 2301
May 4, 2012.