Last month CMAW won another battle in its ongoing fight to protect jobs and BC communities from American pressure, says it's President Jan Noster.
Over the summer a dispute arose between CMAW and the UBCJA (the International) relating to the upcoming Rio-Tinto Alcan smelter in Kitimat, B.C.
In March Rio Tinto Alcan awarded a $2.5 billion smelter expansion contract to Bechtel Canada who then entered into a new Project Labour Agreement with American-headquartered International BUiling Trades Unions that excluded Kitimat area carpenters and contractors.
"Kitimat area construction workers and contractors have been through a lot of tough times, says Noster, "and the Americans were threatening to swoop in and take away local work. We had to fight to protect local hire rules for local members and contractors."
As the summer progressed, Bechtel's bargaining representatives also became concerned about the potential for labour relations instability and potential problems relating to the adequacy of the supply of qualified carpenters if CMAW were to be excluded entirely from the mega-project.
In an effort to address those concerns, Bechtel drafted a Memorandum of Understanding which included CMAW and would welcome CMAW members employed by CMAW carpenter contractors.
"Very clearly, this was yet another attempt by the UBCJA to derail the movement of Canadian workers to Canadian construction unions.,,, if the UBCJA had been successful, our members wishing to work on the project would have had to rejoin the American Union that they voted to leave 3 years ago, the UBCJA and the BC Building Trades have shown their contempt for the people of Northern BC by their willingness to bring their dirty politics to our workplaces and our communities" said Ken Lippett, Business Manager for CMAW carpenter locals in the area. CMAW Local 1081 has been active in the area since 1951 and has deep roots in Kitimat and neighboring first nations community Kitimaat Village.
The International opposed Bechtel's inclusion of CMAW on the Project and the issue went straight to the BC Labour Relations Board for resolution.
But the International did not get want they wanted from the LRB, agree Noster and Lippett. In an important decision (BCLRB B125/2008, click here to view), the LRB ruled that the Project is of obvious significant importance to the local economy and local citizens.
Even if the International were right in its claim that it should be the exclusion carpenters union, the LRB said in the decision, "stability concerns would still arise because International has no existing collective bargaining relationships with local carpenter contractors."
On the other hand, the LRB recognized, CMAW has existing bargaining relationships with local contractors and has made it clear "it expects those contractors who work on the Project to honour their collective agreements with CMAW."
It is apparent Bechtel representatives want CMAW on the Project, says the LRB. In all the circumstances, the LRB said, it was "not prepared to accept the Internationals claim that CMAW should have no right to represent its members on the Project."
"Before finally leaving 3 years ago, we struggled with the UBCJA, its arrogance and constant interference in our Local Unions affairs" says Lippett. "It just never ceases to amaze us that the greatest threat to our community comes from an American-based organization that calls itself a union, it further amazes us that the federal and Provincial governments allow these so called UNIONS to treat Canadians as a commodity like lumber or nails".
Since the LRB decision Lippett and Noster confirm that local area contractors and members are all ready working at the project and are "committed to having local citizens make it another successful CMAW project."
For more information please contact Jan Noster, firstname.lastname@example.org or 604.785.4904 .