GM Skilled Trades Report


May 26, 2017


As you are all aware, Apprentices were a major topic of discussion at the 2016 contract negotiations. Since returning from bargaining, the Union Leadership has had continuous dialogue with local management on the need to hire Apprentices as attrition in the Trades continues. With the Company acknowledging that they are seeing a tremendous amount of Skilled Trades knowledge leaving without being able to capture that knowledge for the future, we were able to leverage that in our conversations. After many meetings and presentations to not only local management but also their managers, we would like to announce that the Apprenticeship program will be starting in St. Catharines once again. The Company has agreed to hire Six Electrical Apprentices. We will be working with management and our apprenticeship representative to develop a selection process. There is still a lot of work to accomplish and we will continue to provide updates on our progress.

Shift Trades:

In the recently distributed Skilled Trades Report, we wrote of developing guidelines to establish a clearly understood common practice to be adopted by all Business Teams for trading shifts by seniority. Our intention is to develop these guidelines over the next few months and implement the practice after the prime time vacation period ends in September of 2017.

The premise of shift trade by seniority is an extension of STATEMENT OF POLICY No. 9 in the Local Agreements titled SHIFT PREFERENCE BY SENIORITY. This policy affirms the Company’s practice of giving preferential privileges to senior employees for openings on steady day, two-shift or three-shift operations. STATEMENT OF POLICY No. 9 further states senior employees will be allowed to remain on the (preferred) shift in their group providing work is available within their classification which they are capable of performing. In the case of Skilled Trades employees, the date of entry seniority will determine the order of preference.

Since June 2016, the two historically distinct Bargaining Committee Zones for Skilled Trades were combined to form one Zone to be represented by one Shop Committeeperson and an Alternate Committeeperson. The merging of zones was necessitated due to the decline in the overall number of Skilled Trades and that number, which continues to decline today no longer sustained the contractual need for two zones. It became painfully evident that common practices would have to be adopted plant-wide. One of the most contentious issues was going to be shift trades which, as we are all aware, was administered differently between Tool Trades who used seniority as the basis and Maintenance Trades who traded through mutual agreement. Both methods served their purpose for many years and there was no urgency to change anything while the Shop Committeepersons managed each of their zones individually. During the run-up to the elections in 2016, the topic of shift trades by seniority was raised on numerous occasions and as your elected reps. we both agreed and made it clear that seniority would be the defining criteria.

Fast forward to today and the dilemma of trading shifts may seem to be more complicated but blending four Mechanical Trade Classifications into one to raise level of ability in the interim should actually provide more opportunities for shift trades since hypothetically we will all have the same skills. By September 2018, the way we handle shift trades and overtime assignments will be entirely different than what we currently see which is a key element in the decision to go with trading shifts by seniority sooner rather than later. Arguably, there may be a case for Electricians to say there is no need for changing the way they trade shifts except now that all Trades are represented by the same reps, a common practice that recognizes seniority will be the way we go forward.

As stated above, guidelines will be developed and communicated in advance of the September 2017 time frame.

Cross Training:                                                                                                                                                                    

Cross-training will be suspended for the PRIME TIME VACATION period and the Company intends to schedule each of the current five classifications in SeQent to take calls accordingly. As the practice is now, if the original classification is not available then the Company can assign the next available trades-person to work to their level of ability in an effort to complete the assignment. Working to YOUR level of ability means YOU determine when a task is beyond YOUR scope of expertise and if so, ask for assistance or proper instruction from a competent person.  

Never forget SAFETY is the overriding priority at all times.

Overtime Shifts:

The union has been made aware of the Company trying to schedule 4-hour shifts for Sunday start-up. We do not condone or support anything less than an 8-hour shift (unless there has been prior discussion and agreement with the Union). We ask that you take this into consideration when presented with the offer of a 4-hour start-up shift. We also suggest that night shift consider not coming in early for an extension of their 1st shift, particularly at this time as the Company is deviating from traditional overtime shifts.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for additional information.

In solidarity,
Brian Chemnitz and Paul Dortono                                                                                                        
Skilled Trades Reps, Local 199, GM Unit