To start with, thank you all for your hard work and patience throughout everything we have all faced these last couple years. It has been a trying time with the layoffs/displacements, Grievances, new technology and Company policies, not being able to have regular Union meetings, and topping it all off with Covid mandates in your personal lives as well as the Company’s policies in these matters. All these things (and more) are a lot for anyone to deal with. You have all persevered and been a key factor in EPCORs growth and profitability which will play a huge part in our negotiating strategies this round.
A little news:
Our President Daryl Royer is away right now on a leave. He is doing well, and we are hopeful to see him return happy and healthy soon. In his absence Joel Kwasny, our Vice President is sitting in and has done a fantastic job.
Bargaining will commence at the end of May. This has been held up due to a Letter of Understanding issue between EPCOR, ourselves, CUPE 30 and CSU 52 but we are hopeful it can be solved in parallel with our negotiations. Regardless, we need to get our CBA sorted sooner rather than later. We have many proposals going into this and have sat with our Bargaining team for a number of days over the last few months getting everything in order. I’ve sent out this information but for those who don’t know, we have Joel Kwasny- acting President (Distribution), Ryan Carruthers- EPCOR Unit Chair (Technologies), Norm Spitzer- Shop Steward (Water Operations), Rob Agate- Member at Large (Electrical/Instrumentation Water), Roberta Hykawy- ABM, Mike Boyd- ABM and myself on the negotiating team. EPCORs negotiating team is comprised of Aaron Miller (LR), Taryn Noel (HR Electricity), Tina Yanitski (Distribution Electricity), Marta Buryn (Customer Connections), Daryl Haynes (Control/Trouble Electricity), Ivan Stepaniuk (Technologies) and Jamie Gingrich (Water).
We currently have 21 Grievances with EPCOR. 10 of these are for the last two layoffs from Technologies and we are going into Arbitration at the end of May for the original layoffs at the end of 2019. I don’t want to go into detail about that even though this is in the portal, but this is what will determine the outcome of what happens with the rest of the layoff/displacements. As far as we are concerned, EPCOR Technologies was looking for ways to cut costs and claimed a shortage of work for their Utility Workers. They laid all their Utility Workers off (which started the displacement language throughout the Companies) and then hired roughly the same number back in a temporary capacity a very short time after the layoff. In other areas, Members who lost their permanent positions were offered temporary positions the same day in their same jobs.
This, combined with the next round of layoffs/displacements have caused nothing but issues. We have temporary employees who used to be permanent employees, working the same jobs without benefits, pensions, holidays, etc., for a Company that boasts record profits and is on the 50 top employer list. We always want to have good relations with the Companies our Members work for, but it is difficult when we see this kind of disregard for how this affects peoples mental wellbeing and lives in general. Our Members are the backbone of these Companies. We are proud of the jobs we do and just want to be treated fairly and with respect.
Everyone is tired of Covid and the mandates. A lot of what has happened during covid doesn’t add up nor does it make sense with the constant changes to policies and protocols. We are and have been doing our best to protect our Members from the virus, but at the same time protect their rights and privacy. This has affected literally everyone in the world and is a very contentious topic. There are many differing opinions on what the balance is between real or perceived safety, personal medical privacy, and Government as well as Company overreach. While EPCOR has been one of the least intrusive Companies that we deal with (as compared to the City of Edmonton), we still have Grievances in on the disclosure element and mandated vaccine policy. There were medical and religious exemptions given out and there was the option to rapid test at your own expense. We have monitored very closely what is happening with other Companies, Unions, and Arbitration decisions and have conducted ourselves accordingly for the rights of our Members. While we believe that we all have a duty to keep ourselves and those around us safe, we do not believe that Companies can force or coerce people to do things against their will or beliefs, even though some have.
We have met with numerous Directors and SVP’s in regard to the closing of Technologies at the end of the year. We are watching headcount and inserting our influence where we can at this time in regard to absorption and positions. We do not know the exact number of actual layoffs yet but are doing our best to ensure it is minimal. There is a lot involved with this, including work our Members do that is now being contracted out, Regulator factors, EPCOR profits, and Bargaining.
We have also met with the City group that will take over our Members in the LRT department. There is a balance there as well to ensure that the City is making a good decision in wanting our Members and their expertise (which they do).
A lot has gone on here in the last year and a half since I took office. We are very successful in what we do. We don’t win all our battles but we are very effective in advocating for our members and we do good work. I am glad that I am here, and you all had faith in me. It is my privilege to work for you through these most difficult times.
As always, please call or email with your concerns and please come to the Hall for your Unit meeting at 5pm the first Tuesday of every month. These will continue through the summer months as well.
Business Manager, IBEW 1007