Spring 2013 Edition of Our Newsletter Northwest News

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12 page NWN

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Harris Victoria Chrysler (formerly Ensign Chrysler) Conclude New Collective Agreement

Machinists Union members at the former Ensign Chrysler, now Harris Victoria Chrysler, have had a tough four years. The dealership was once a leader in the Victoria area but, over the years, the business declined. In 2008, ownership transfer from local businessmen to an absentee owner who operated a chain of dealerships in Saskatchewan and Alberta. At the same time, the domestic auto industry went into meltdown. For a while, it seemed Ensign would be one of the marginal dealerships Chrysler was culling in an effort to remain solvent.

In the end, Ensign made the cut and became a dealership for the new, bailed out Chrysler. Due to the extremely difficult position of the employer found huimself in, Technicians at Ensign agreed to work under a Flat Rate system instead of the hourly pay with bonus they had enjoyed before. Flat Rate in the 60s, 70s, even 80s paid well, with a combination of reasonable book times and plentiful work. But fast forward to 2009, and the combination of impossibly low book times for warranty and a lack of retail customers took a toll a big toll on Members’ earning. Particularly grating for Techs was waiting their entire shift for work to come in the door and not getting paid a red cent until it appeared. The Techs had a weekly guarantee of 32 hours a week and that is what they lived on, 80% of their nominal wages.

It was not that the Techs’ work was anything but explemary; their efficiency rates were over 120% taken as a group, with two out of the seven over 140%. The work simply was not there and the dealership appeared to be unable to attract more.

Just before the end of the last Collective Agreement, the dealership changed hands again. Gone was the group from Saskatchewan, as the Tom Harris Group, a successful chain of five dealerships up island took the reigns. Immediately the business began to rebound as successful sales strategies were applied with vigor.

The question of the Collective Agreement was still unsettled as Tom Harris personally conducted the negotiations. Listening to the problems his employees had endured, he responded with positive proposals which helped both employee and employer. Tom Harris’s recognition of the key role of his skilled employees helped craft a satisfactory agreement for all parties.

All employees received a healthy 3% increase. Techs have returned to hourly pay, but with the potential to realize $33.00 hour, an increase of over 8% that brings them into parity with other Unionized dealerships in the city….quite a turn around! Payments for courses completed at home, the addition of Family Day and the creation of a Lube Tech classification round out the three year deal. Wage increases in the second and third year will be by the cost of living increase for British Columbia.

Members are pleased to have three years of certainty as Harris Victoria Chrysler grows back it business.


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Workers At The Federal Government Dockyard in Esquimalt Ratify Three Year Deal

The Federal Government Dockyard Trades and Labour Council (West) is a poly-party alliance of 11 separate Unions, representing workers at the Canadian Navy’s west coast base in Esquimalt, BC. The employer is the Treasury Board in Ottawa.

The Federal Government Dockyard Trades and Labour Council (West) negotiating team
Des Rogers, President (center)

Still stinging from the Restraint Act which rolled back a binding arbitration award by 5%, the Trades and Labour Council entered bargaining determined to continue to resist any concessions and win a fair agreement.

Pattern bargaining, where previous settlements in a sector dictate future settlements, meant the end of voluntary severance was preordained. The Trades and Labour Council had successfully stood firm in the previous negotiations against this demand but now the largest Unions in the Public Sector have agreed and there would be no settlement without it. The terms were not as onerous as might be imagined. All previously accumulated voluntary severance was retained and could be paid out now, in the future or half and half. The severance is in weeks so the current pay rate set the actual amount. A small wage allowance of 3/4% came some way to compensate for the loss.
But where the Trades and Labour Council negotiating team came to shine was in the third year wage increase. Eight out of eleven affiliates locals wanted all tradesmen paid the same rate and this was achieved. The wage mandate might be 1½% per year but through reclassification of pay groups the majority of tradesmen will receive a 5.7% increase in the last year as all tradesmen move into the same pay group. Tradesmen already receiving the higher rate will receive a $2,500 bonus.

Improvements to family leave and bereavement pay round out this agreement.

On September 14, the majority of the membership voted in favour of the new agreement.

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Lifetimer Boats Has A New Three Year Collective Agreement

Shop Steward Dale Spencer and Tradesman Ryan Caunt double check a new hull.

Lifetimer Boats has a reputation for making durable and well designed boats up to 40′ in length. Until a few years ago, the low Canadian dollar made exports to the US the main market. As the dollar rose, the market shifted to those keeping boats in British Columbia. Albertans buy many boats for use when they vacation of the coast.

At Lifetimer Boats, family comes first, both for workers and management. The caring attitude towards the employees and their families has earned long term loyalty. If a child has a concert or family business must be attended to, employees are always free to attend.

Lifetimer Boats is in a very competitive market of small aluminum boat builder. All its rivals are non-union and wages for tradesmen are only 85% of other industries. At the last negotiations, three years ago, the Union was given a file of aluminum boat makers in British Columbia. The shops were scouted but, regretably, most were very small operations with only a few employees and unsuitable for organizing. Even the largest were small with only a half dozen workers. Union organizing attempts were used by the non-union workers to remind their bosses to give them a raise but real interest was no there.

The Machinists Union was unable to raise the wages for the industry in general and so have to accept wages good for the industry but below other sectors of the economy. The flexible working conditions help make up for lower pay.

In spite of the vunerablity of the boat sector to economic downurns, it was agreed the three year agreement will include a 2% raise in each year. In this family ortientated business, approval of the new February statutory holiday, to be proclaimed in 2013, was automatic.

Lifetimer Boats has stability for the next three years and many more of their distinctive boats will be taking to the waves.

From run-about to work boat, Lifetimer Boats fill every need.

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