On Tuesday July 30th, 2019, I received a telephone call from the BCA’s Director of Labor Relations Marty Albright, informing Lodge 359 that a discussion had taken place a day earlier with one of its main BCA contractors, CIMS Limited Partnership, who was now seeking parity with not just the recently imposed amendments on the CLRA Agreement by the Labour Relation Board, but parity with all Articles deemed by the employer to be more beneficial than the BCA Agreement. The discussion that took place revolved around the concept of Lodge 359 essentially enabling the remainder of its 2014-2020 BCA Collective Agreement to achieve this parity, otherwise this contractor would be serving notice to the parties (The Boilermakers Lodge 359 and the BCA of B.C.) of its intentions to leave the Boiler Contractors Association (BCA) and to join the Construction Labor Relations Association (CLRA) to represent them for the Boilermakers.
On the evening of July 30th, 2019 I received an enabling request (click here) from the BCA outlining the relief it was seeking on behalf of its contractor(s). From the position of Lodge 359 this request was out of touch with the intent of the “Article 26.01 Enabling Clause”, and that all articles advantageous to the employer of the BCA agreement be enabled (is this not bargaining?) for the entirety of the province of British Columbia. In our view this was not, and has never been, the intent of the terms in the Article “for a particular project”, and for a “specific geographical location.” See BCA Agreement Article 26.01 below:
ARTICLE 26 – ENABLING CLAUSE
Where a particular Article or Articles of this Collective Agreement is or are found to work a hardship for a particular project or specific geographical area, the terms and conditions of this agreement for that project or specific geographical area, may be modified by the mutual consent of the Union and the Boilermaker Contractors’ Association of B.C. when they deem it prudent. It is understood and agreed that where mutual agreement for such change cannot be achieved, the request shall not be subject to either grievance or arbitration.
The following day, I made a telephone call to the VP of Business Development of CIMS to learn more about why such a request (Demand/Threat?) was being sought. Through the conversation it had been explained to myself that this contractor found itself in an apparent hardship situation due to the recently imposed CLRA agreement and needed relief in order to compete in the same market. When I questioned CIMS to produce any proof that it had lost any form of work in the last 30 days since the recently imposed CLRA agreement, it was stated that going forward is where the concern was. They required an answer about the BCA enablement request ASAP by Lodge 359, which gave us a day to digest all this before their notice to leave the BCA of BC was to be given.
Immediately after the conclusion of the telephone call an email was sent to myself (click here) regarding CIMS notice to leave the BCA of BC, and they feel that will allow them to also sever their connection to the BCA-BM359 Collective Agreement at the end of its term in 2020 and begin a relationship with the CLRA for the Boilermakers, and what it deems to be a more advantageous agreement.
To bring the members up to speed, we have deemed the enablement request as being an attempt to force us into mirroring the CLRA agreement by threat and intimidation of having our biggest contractor leave the BCA and possibly have the remaining BCA of BC employers follow. We have decided that since these are major changes being sought, and that bargaining was to begin soon anyways, and the length of time that it took to get through the CLR bargaining, we have sent a notice to begin bargaining to the BCA of BC to begin this process (click here). It is apparent that the terms and conditions that are being sought are inevitably going to take some time to work through. The BCA responded that Lodge 359 is 5 months premature in its request to bargain, and that the BCA is prepared to continue mutually agreeable discussions on the topics it’s raised, through means of enabling (click here).
We kindly reminded the BCA that this membership opened its collective agreement once prior in the current agreement to assist its contractors, in what at that time was a down economy. We’ve since reinforced that at no time now, or prior to the expiration of the current collective agreement, will this Lodge do the same again, as the economy before us is anything but hurting. We have contractors that have secured work all over the Province at the current Collective Agreement rates and conditions, and to enable cuts to the Collective Agreement now makes the allocation of where those monies might end up ever so questionable. We are fortunately in a position now where the membership is privy to some of the obvious requests that will be sought in the upcoming round of bargaining with the BCA, which I feel potentially every member understood to be the case after the imposed CLRA agreement. In my opinion, it is a sad day when any contractor attempts to skirt around the collective bargaining processes and undermines the foundational relationship it has built over the years with its labour partner.
To ensure the markets in which we have built our livelihoods on, are going to continue to be built and maintained by highly trained and skilled Boilermakers, we have at times accepted reductions to our already negotiated terms and conditions. To now have a principal contractor attempt to withdraw from its commitment to the enabled deal, after we have completed our part, is in my opinion just plain sad.
There are many questions that are currently unanswered at this point, and we are working through them and will keep the membership informed and updated as we get answers. Lodge 359 will continue fighting to ensure all contractors that have agreed to work under the terms of the BCA-BM359 Collective Agreement will continue to do so, whether they are currently a member of the Boiler Contractor Association or not.
Boilermakers Lodge 359
Business Manager/Secretary Treasurer