The local is currently accepting applications for the course Taking Back Our Workfloor. We are hosting a class on August 17th at the Viscount Gort, but this past Tuesday at the plant, some members took the workfloor back. There was a problem, but the workers devised a safer plan and put it into action. It was remarkable, and it’s something all of us can do.
I was finishing dinner at home with my partner and a friend who was visiting from out of town when the phone rang. On the other end was a concerned health and safety rep from the plant. Management was intending to unload a trailer full of parcels. The trailer had been in the yard for a few days because the first time they opened it, it was teeming with cockroaches.
I spoke with the health and safety rep for a few minutes and then quickly changed clothes and drove down to the WMPP. I got there right in time for break and was able to speak to a couple of people about the trailer and management’s plans.
After the meal break, the dock workers who would normally unload trailers were gathered near the trailer to hear what the evening shift manager had to say about the situation.
He told them the same story I had heard. When the cockroaches were first discovered, Orkin Exterminators had been called to investigate. The trailer had been left in the yard and the inside of it was sprayed with a substance to kill the bugs. It was then left for a couple more days to let the bug poison do its trick.
As the manager was speaking, many of the workers from Runouts, on the other side of the building were walking over. The manager looked at me. I had no idea what was up.
“Why are they coming here,” he asked.
“Dunno. They must have something to say,” I said.
They did. Those workers in Runouts had reason to be concerned. When parcels are unloaded from a trailer on the dock, they take a little trip on the conveyor belts and end up in Runouts soon after. The Runouts workers could potentially be dealing with parcels that have live cockroaches or eggs on them. This was not acceptable. The workers told the manager as much.
While all of this was happening, there were two supervisors lurking on the sidelines with disposable gloves on, waiting to unload the trailer. Two more supervisors were prepared to scan the parcels’ barcodes as they entered the building. Cockroaches are gross and supervisors attempting to steal our work right in front of us is also disgusting.
In the few minutes that followed the arrival of the workers from Runouts, a new plan was devised. CUPW members would unload the trailer, and they would do it with flashlights and they would be granted the time and space to inspect every parcel with a flashlight before putting it on the belt. Then, as the parcels enter the building, two more of our members would inspect the parcels and scan the barcodes. If there was one live bug discovered, we would shut the operation down and we got to make that call.
Management was going to unload the trailer. The supervisors were there and willing. They were willing to risk spreading cockroaches not only throughout the plant, but potentially to every letter carrier facility in the city as well. A safer, better option was presented. We did our jobs, and we did it right.
This is a microcosm of Taking Back Our Workfloor. Workers knew what they wanted, and they stood up and got it.
That’s unionism. I was there to witness it, but my presence was not necessary. Local executive officers don’t need to be at the centre of every discussion. Sometimes, the workers know what they want and how to go get it. Especially in acute situations like the one with the cockroach trailer.
Taking Back Our Workfloor helps us unlock skills that help guide us through those situations. It helps us distil palpable anger and frustration into a solution. It helps us create the environments we need to have at work. And it teaches us that that power is resident in each and every one of us and when we work together, we can achieve anything.
Sign up for Taking Back Our Workfloor by emailing education officer Tyler Nielsen at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have so many applicants for the class on August 17th, we will need to run the class again in the coming months.
Don’t forget the cockroach trailer. It’s a great example of why unionism, and learning how to access the skills inside of you is so important.
RSMC INFORMATION SESSION
It was great to see so many folks from around the region come out to a special information session for RSMCs on Thursday this week.
National union representatives Rona Eckert, Barb McMillan, and Nicolas Presne generously donated two hours of their time on a nice summer evening to answer Prairie Region RSMC questions about compensation for the rising cost of fuel.
The questions were good and the conversation was robust. There are quite a few concerns about how RSMCs are compensated for their fuel consumption.
RSMCs are compensated the Canada Revenue Agency rate for mileage, which is $0.61 per kilometre for the first 5,000 kilometres driven in a year, and $0.55 per kilometre after that. This is contractual. The CRA rate was chosen because it is tax free, and is meant to be a reimbursement for fuel and maintenance, and isn’t intended to be a remuneration.
If the employer were to compensate RSMCs beyond the CRA rate, that compensation and all of the CRA-based vehicle allowance would become taxable for the year. Not desirable.
Because of that catch, the union proposed to the employer that RSMCs be credited for driving assured distances on their routes, thereby increasing the number of kilometres RSMCs are compensated for, and this would be within the CRA rate and remain non taxable. Clever.
However, the employer said no. The employer says the CRA rate is sufficient. Any talks about an increase to compensation for RSMCs should come through contract negotiations or through the hourly rate committee.
We can’t force the employer to pay more, but we can put pressure on it to do something.
Also, call your MP. It’s summer and it’s possible you can catch them in the constituency office or flipping burgers at a festival of some kind.
Pressure is what we can apply at this point. Call the local office if you’re interested in a public event. A picket somewhere prominent, a Portage-and-Main rush hour banner waving, anything. Raising public awareness can also help.
Also, please remember this time when we head into a contract renewal year next year. We need strong resolutions to put forward to our negotiating committee. We will need to put pressure on the boss daily on the floor to encourage a fairly negotiated collective agreement. We will need to be strong on the picket line if it comes to that.
Remember that when gas prices skyrocketed and it had a severe impact on workers, the corporation shrugged.
There is still time to apply for two regional educational opportunities.
The Prairie Region is hosting Advanced Shop Steward in Gimli from September 12th to 16th. This class would be for members who are already shop stewards and are looking to take their steward game to the next level. Applications are due by August 8th for this opportunity. Look for the applications on a bulletin board at work or email email@example.com for a digital version.
The Prairie and Pacific regions are hosting two facilitator training classes in New Westminster, B.C. from October 2nd to 7th. CUPW Facilitator Training Level 1 and 2 will be offered. Facilitators are teachers! If you have taken Facilitator Training Level 1 before, you would apply to take Level 2. If you have never taken a facilitator course before, this class will teach you how to facilitate classes for the union. You would likely be called on by your local and occasionally the region to help educate members. Apply by August 19th to take facilitator training.
The local is also hoping to host more classes in the coming months. Keep your ear to the ground to hear about more education opportunities. Knowledge is power. Get some!
WMPP -- RED ZONE
Last week, we reported that there were contingency plans in place if a facility had a sudden increase in COVID cases amongst workers. The WMPP passed the threshold into the red zone on Friday, and will be in the 21-day mitigation period starting Monday, August 1st at 00:00.
From last week's report:
The corporation released a plan for Covid mitigation this week. It’s called the Tactical Pandemic Response and it outlines what happens when a certain number of the corporation’s employees report they have contracted Covid.
For small facilities of 20 to 49 employees, when more than 10 per cent of people have Covid, the mitigation policies will be applied. Same goes when five per cent or more of people in a facility of 50 to 149 employees report Covid, or when more than two per cent of people in a facility of 150 to 1,000 report.
If a workplace has reached its threshold over a two-week period, there will be a 21-day mitigation period. These actions will be mandatory:
Level 2 medical mask wearing;
Staggered start times;
Enhanced cleaning and sterilization;
On-site rapid testing clinics or at-home tests will be distributed;
Possible work-from-home scenarios for administrative functions;
No non-essential in-person training or meetings;
Gyms and multi-faith rooms will be closed;
No visitors allowed other than essential safety inspectors;
No non-essential contract work;
Updated signage and targeted communication.
Covid cases are on the rise, and it is entirely likely this 21-day mitigation could be coming to a work floor near you sometime in the coming weeks. Keep wearing the superior N95s until the boss forces you to wear a less effective Level 2 mask.
That’s all she wrote this week. Enjoy the long weekend, everyone. I just learned the other day that Monday is officially Terry Fox Day in Manitoba. Spend a moment reflecting on that brave young man and the mutual aid he has inspired years after his untimely death. If we were all a little more like Terry, hey, maybe this world wouldn’t be going to hell in a handbasket, eh?
WINNIPEG LOCAL 856
2022 General Membership Meeting Schedule
Saturday, September 10th, 9:00 a.m.
*Meeting schedule subject to change due to living in a difficult-to-predict world.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a registration form.