The Pulper April 2006 Bulletin of CEP Local 1129 in pdf format
Wage Caucus Delegates Irate
Bro. Coles Raked Over CEP’s ‘Sub-CLAC’ Contractors
Delegates from CEP Locals representing members at Catalyst Paper mills spearheaded an irate denunciation of CEP Western Region Vice President Dave Coles at a March 27-29 CEP Pulp and Paper Wage Caucus meeting in Vancouver.
Their anger, and the anger of other delegates, was sparked by a recent Collective Agreement reached between an outside contractor named JV Driver and CEP Local 470. Brother Coles helped negotiate the agreement. According to some delegates he was also instrumental in introducing Catalyst management to JV Driver management.
The discussion occupied an hour or more on each of the meeting’s first two days.
Local 470 is 18 months old and is related to the Construction, Maintenance and Allied Workers (CMAW). CMAW is the name taken by Canadian members of the carpenters’ union who broke away from their US-based international in 2004 and affiliated with the CEP. Several wage and benefit provisions in the Contract between Local 470 and JV Driver mean the contractor’s employees are working under a “sub-CLAC agreement,” in the words of one delegate. (The Christian Labour Association of Canada is a “rat union” which the legitimate Union movement in western Canada has been fighting against for over 10 years.)
As of early this year, JV Driver is now the “preferred contractor” at Catalyst mills in Campbell River, Crofton, Port Alberni, and Powell River, all of which have CEP-represented workforces. The “preferred” designation means Catalyst will contract virtually all of its outside contracting work to JV Driver, which will either do the work with its own crews or sub-contract to other contractors.
One brother from Port Alberni reported that his members were even being told that mill tradesmen might have to work under the direction of JV Driver foremen and might have to submit to taking competency tests required by the contractor.
JV Driver has also done work at the Weyerhauser mill in Kamloops, and several brothers expressed fears that the contractor will now be seeking work at other CEP-represented mills in the province. “Coming to a mill near you,” quipped one.
Delegates from the four Catalyst mills cited wage levels in the JV Driver contract which are significantly below those paid to members of the mill locals. A labourer, for instance, makes only $15 per hour. But there are similar gaps for apprentices, truck drivers, and other categories of workers.
“So, why should Catalyst hire people into the bargaining unit,” said one delegate, “when they can pay a lot less by having JV Driver hire them?”
To make matters worse the JV Driver contract has what is known as an “enabling clause.” This race-to-the-bottom clause states, “The wage rates and other provisions set out may be amended by mutual agreement for specific projects in order to enable the employer to compete with non-union or other competition...” Most of the delegates’ ire centred around two aspects of this development.
First, they are “pissed off” that these negotiations were carried out without anyone talking to the CEP locals in the affected mills. Second, they are livid that the CEP 470 deal under-cuts the protections most CEP Contracts contain around the use of low-wage-low-benefit contractors whose members are non-union or members of rat unions.
Our Code of Ethics forces non-union and rat union contractors to pay their tradesmen at least the journeyman’s rate in our Contract and the rest of their workers at least the base rate paid to mill workers. But the Code of Ethics does not cover contractors whose employees are represented by a union like the CEP.
In his defense, Brother Coles argued that the JV Driver Contract wasn’t really that bad. In this he was supported by at least one CEP National Rep.
“We’re not seeing Catalyst contract out more work,” said Brother Coles. “Just the opposite: they’re contracting in work that would have been contracted out.” He maintained that the JV Driver trades rates were “higher than the mill’s.” Many of the wage and benefit figures in the JV Driver contract (although not the labourer’s wage) were similar to those in many construction union collective agreements, said the VP.
Brother Coles also said he did not interpret the language cited above as an “enabling clause.”
Brother Bob Hughf, the national rep, pointed out that the Code of Ethics sets minimum wage rates, but does not provide for any minimum health and welfare benefits. Non-union workers coming into mills under the code have to pay their own premiums in most cases, he said, whereas the Local 470 contract provides benefits as part of the compensation package.
Brother Hughf recounted the developments leading up to the JV Driver contract. When Catalyst chose the company as its “preferred contractor,” he said, this set off a lot of fears:
• that the mill workforce would be reduced to skeleton crews,
• that Catalyst would save work for shutdowns and contract out as much as possible,
• that there would be roving contractor crews moving from mill to mill,
• that a non-union JV Driver would take work from “legitimate unions,” and
• that use of the contractor would encourage blurring
the demarcation lines between different trades.
CEP has received assurances from CMAW President Len Embury as well as from JV Driver President Bill Elkington, said Brother Hughf, that neither aims to take work away from CEP mill crews. Catalyst management has also said similar things, he reported.
Furthermore, the contract provides for JV Driver hiring permanently laid off mill workers who are CEP members, said Brother Hughf.
But delegates were not calmed by the remarks of Brothers Coles and Hughf.
On the specific question of JV Driver’s trades rates being higher than mill rates, delegates pointed out that this was only when safety incentive “awards” were taken into account.
The CEP 470 Contract provides 50-cent pay boosts following every eight-week period in which an individual has no lost time accidents or medical aid visits. A further 50 cents is paid to an individual if his crew has had no lost time accidents or medical aid visits.
By the time the discussion was over (or at least on pause for the time being), delegates had passed two motions.
The first instructed CEP staff that they were not to meet with employer representatives without Local representatives present.
The second demanded that the Wage Caucus be provided with a detailed breakdown on the costs related to CEP’s association with CMAW—including legal fees, time spent by staff, lost time wages, etc.—and information on what CEP funds these expenditures were allocated from.