Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Canadian union wins modernization battle

article: Kitimat Sentinel
Published: October 29, 2008 6:00 AM

The Canadian Maintenance and Allied Workers Union (CMAW) has won a ruling from the BC Labour Relations Board against the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBCJA).

The ruling will mean that Local 1081 members - those workers in the Northwest - will have a better shot at getting work on the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter modernization project.

Three years ago the CMAW split from the UBCJA, the US-based union.

Bechtel Canada, after receiving a $2.5 billion contract for the smelter modernization, entered into a “foundation agreement” with the British Columbia Regional Council of Carpenters (BCRCC), the Canadian arm of the UBCJA, which CMAW said would have excluded its members.

CMAW members wishing to work on the project would have had to rejoin the American union.

When concerns surfaced about finding enough labour without the CMAW, Bechtel’s Kitimat Modernization Employer Association drafted a memorandum of understanding to include CMAW members.

The UBCJA opposed the union’s inclusion and the matter went before the BC Labour Relations board.

“The UBCJA tried to put all the pressure they could on Bechtel down in the states so that CMAW ... would be excluded from the project,” said CMAW president Jan Noster.

But the labour board ruled in favour of CMAW’s inclusion.

In his decision, Michael Fleming, associate chairman on the labour board, said “the solution proposed by BCRCC has the effect of potentially restricting CMAW’s ability to represent its members employed by contractors with existing collective agreements with CMAW.”

The resolution has the BCRCC as signatory to the project labour agreement (PLA), signed between Bechtel and a coalition of building trades unions, including the BCRCC, and that the CMAW’s role in the modernization project will be limited to a right to “represent its members ... with respect to contractors with existing collective agreements with CMAW as of the date of the execution of the PLA.”

Noster’s goal now is to ensure Kitimat companies get the work.

“My concern now going forward is that first of all that the companies that are in Kitimat, pay taxes in Kitimat, will be here long after the job in Kitimat is over ... get a good chunk of the work,” he said.

He’s also concerned with the prospect of foreign workers coming in through a foreign temporary worker clause in the PLA.

“The UBCJA doesn’t have a member within a 1,000 kilometres of Kitimat,” said Noster. “They’re going to be on that project and they’re either going to import people from Vancouver or the United States.

“If the locals are laid off because the local contracts are excluded from the project or are unsuccessful in obtaining work for that project, and there’s a bunch of foreign temporary workers or people from outside the community building the project, that’s a huge issue.”

Noster also said this could be a chance to give young people the chance to enter into apprenticeships on the project, what he calls a once in a lifetime opportunity.

That would help develop more skilled workers, he maintained and pointed out a slow down in contracting in the 1980s had created a generational gap in skilled trades in the country.

Noster said the CMAW is committed to the PLA and just hopes work is made available to the local residents.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Catalyst workers vote to strike

article: Vancouver Sun
Twelve hundred workers at Catalyst Paper have voted 95 per cent in favour of striking at three of the company's four coastal pulp and paper mills after contract negotiations between Catalyst and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union broke down earlier this month.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Oilpatch braces for downturn

article: Business Edge News Magazine
'Reductions in demand for gasoline and in crude prices are starting to gain the upper hand, and prices at the pump have dropped in recent weeks,' Desjardins Securities in a commodity commentary.

'This trend should continue if oil stays below US$100 per barrel.'

While consumers have some reason to hope for relief, weaker crude prices and strapped credit markets will pummel the oilpatch, said Derek Burleton, an economist with TD Bank.

A crude price around US$80 is break-even territory for many high-cost projects that require huge amounts of steel, construction equipment, labour and natural gas.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rio Tinto Alcan expansion projects under review for possible delay

article: The Canadian Press
Rio Tinto Alcan says its expansion projects in Canada could be delayed as the company reviews capital expenditures in light of the global financial crisis.

The London-based mining giant says it is reviewing all capital projects. Among its largest in Canada are the modernization of the Kitimat smelter in British Columbia and construction of a couple of smelters in Quebec's Saguenay region.

Rio Tinto pulls in its horns -
Now a proposed $2.5-billion expansion of Alcan's aluminum smelter in Kitimat, B.C., is one of the projects that will be re-examined with what Mr. Albanese called 'a sharp pencil.' Rio's board was slated to decide this month whether to approve the project, which would increase aluminum output by more than 40 per cent while cutting greenhouse gas emissions by about 40 per cent.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Winnipeg Centre MP decries use of foreign trades on portions of airport expansion project

read full article: Journal of Commerce
Ottawa-based Reemaco Inc. was hired by Ellis Don to hire qualified workers to construct a new air terminal at the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg.

Reemaco hired about 22 TFWs, mostly from Lebanon, as carpenters to build a ramp.

However, an NDP member of Parliament is extremely upset and angry about the use of the foreign workers on the project.

“We were horrified to learn that local qualified trades people were not being hired and being laid off, while temporary foreign workers continue to be brought in,” said Winnipeg Centre MP Pat Martin.

“Our workers are sitting outside the fence looking in while Lebanese workers are flown in from Moscow. The labour brokers now realize that Canada is an open door and the temporary foreign workers are flooding in.”

A union rep said local workers could have filled the positions.

“Manitoban’s are being sent home and the temporary foreign workers are staying there,” said Wayne McLennan, the business agent for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.

“I have people on my out of work list lining up for work.”