Friday, September 11, 2009

Article 19-7 Meeting

To our Members,
Today, the Workman's Committee and our International Representative met to discuss, and attempt to resolve the issues with the 12 hour shift schedule, as required by Article 19-7 of our rolling contract. That was the sole purpose of today's meeting.
Our spokesperson explained to the company representatives that you, our membership, had already said no to the operations standby, and we were here to discuss other options and make proposals.
Naturally, we brought up the fact that the utility operator was one option, which I don't recall even eliciting a response. Our International Rep then proceeded to walk through our proposals to avoid the need for Operations standby, for short notice vacancies.

  1. Voluntary list, as is used currently.
  2. Volunteers not on the Voluntary list.
  3. Move extra people on shift to the vacancy.
  4. Move daylight/Special Assignment Operators over to cover shift.
  5. Mandate day off workers to cover shift, as is the current practice.
  6. Split the vacancy to the 18 hours per the current company policy.
  7. Utilize other qualified team members to cover the rest period employees.

The purpose of proposal #7, is the company has received drafts of the API fatigue standard that USW was at one time working on, that specifies a 10 hour rest period for anyone who works 18 hours. What that means, is that once you have worked an 18 hour shift, if you are scheduled to be back the next day/night, you wouldn't be able to until 4 hours into your shift. Our proposal had another trained operator on the 18 hour workers team covering the first 4 hours of his return shift. The company stated that the proposals "looked good" to them, but that they had some suggestions on how to fit their needs.

The company stated concern for the number of 18 hour shifts worked, and we agreed, that any incident of an 18 hour shift occurring should be immediately investigated by the company and the Union to ensure that the above protocol had been met.

Then the meeting moved on to what I call the "triggers" portion of the meeting. There was discussion on how many occurrences would create a "trigger". We also questioned what the company considered an occurrence of an 18 hour shift. Would 1 person, calling in sick, trigger two occurrences of an 18 hour shift? Since 2 people were working the 18 hour shift? Or would the 1 vacancy be considered an occurrence? It was clear to me that 1 vacancy would cause 2 occurrences of 18 hour shifts. Which was the company's original Operations Standby "trigger" from the voted down last, best and final proposal the company had made previously. Which is what they referenced when we asked how many occurrences would be considered the "trigger".

It became clear to us that the "trigger" we were talking about, and the "trigger" they were referring to were two different "triggers". They were referring to Operations Standby, and we were referring to going to an 8 hour shift.

Our International Rep. pointed out that 8 hour shifts is going to happen, and we are trying to avoid that. We believe wholeheartedly, that if you, our Operations were given the chance, that shift coverage would be handled to avoid the 8 hour schedule, if indeed that was your desire. We believe wholeheartedly, that if the front line supervision were given the opportunity to properly schedule the shift teams, that short term vacancy's would not lead up to an 18 hour shift being worked. We simply asked that you be given the chance to handle their concern, and to take a leap of faith, with you the operations personnel. And that if the "trigger" was hit, then we would go to 8 hour shifts. Unfortunately, that was not good enough for this management group. They insisted, that to continue on with 12 hour shifts, operations standby as the result of a "trigger" was absolutely necessary for them. They stated, "We need a way to deal with them not answering their phone". That is a direct quote from the meeting.

Article 19-7, in our opinion, is the resolution if there is an issue with 12 hour shifts. We do not agree that placing operations personnel on a mandatory, unpaid standby where you are subject to discipline if they are unable to reach you, should trump Article 19-7.

We then moved into the issues of the 8 hour schedule. We believe that hours of work is a bargainable issue, the company disagrees. However, we are currently negotiating a new contract, an open contract, and it is our intention to discuss the 8 hour shift schedule at that table. We also have to questions of how shutdowns and turnarounds will be scheduled, how overtime will be filled (scheduled) and other effects of the change. We requested the company to give us a proposal of an 8 hour shift schedule if they had one, and they did not.

To summarize, we brought 7 (seven) proposals to the table, the company brought 0 (zero) and gave us not a single counter-proposal.