By Ken Lippett, Vancouver Sun
Re: Kitimat smelter project suffers skilled labour shortage, Sept. 10
The Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers (CMAW) has 70 carpenters and apprentices working on site at the Kitimat modernization project (KMP); this is down from a high of 121 carpenters and apprentices in March/April.
The article states that the project is short 50 carpenters.
CMAW has always been able to supply this project with tradespersons, the majority of whom came from northwestern B.C. There is still a supply of tradespersons wishing to work on the project. In addition there are an additional 25-30 applicants per month wishing to join CMAW.
What Colleen Nyce from Rio Tinto/ Alcan (RTA) must be referring to is the inability of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBCJA) to supply carpenters and apprentices to the Kitimat project.
In 2008 RTA's managing contractor, Bechtel, chose to do a deal with the American carpenters union (UBCJA) that attempted to exclude the Canadian union CMAW from the project.
Through a B.C. Labour Relations Board order and a directive from RTA to Bechtel, CMAW was written into the Project Labour Agreement (PLA) as a participant union. There are two separate and distinct carpenters unions on that project.
The CMAW was formed in 2004 when over 95 per cent of the B.C. members of UBCJA voted to leave that union, forming the CMAW, head-quartered in Vancouver and led by an elected board of Canadian tradespersons from Western Canada.
It is the contractors who have no relationship with CMAW who are having the perceived supply problem.
One reason the UBCJA contractors may have a supply problem on the project is that they believed the UBCJA's claim that supply of tradespersons would be no problem.
It is CMAW's opinion that the UBCJA assumed temporarily unemployed CMAW members would come flocking to the UBCJA contractors. This has not happened.
Another issue that aggravates the problem is the distaste the majority of CMAW's members have in working under a UBCJA agreement (an organization they voted overwhelmingly to leave).
The manifestation of this issue is a perceived supply problem.
There is no skills shortage in the carpentry trade in northern B.C.
Ken Lippett First vice-president, CMAW © Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
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