I would like introduce our guest speaker, Brian Foley. Brian is the chairman of the mediation division of the Labour Relations Board. We have asked Brian to look into his crystal ball and tell us where we are going with Labour Relations in British Columbia and what we as Maintenance Superintendents can do to help. With that i will let Brian take over and then I guess he will let us ask some questions.
Thanks very much John for the opportunity to come up and talk to you. To give you a little highlight of my background, I worked for 10 years when I got out of University as a union representative. I then spent 12 years in various management jobs and the most recent being vice-president of Human Resources, Engineering and Telecommunications for B.C. Rail from 1984 to 1992. I have been 10 years as a neutral. In the mid '80s for 4 years and then for the last 5 with the labour relations board as John said1 Head of the Mediation Division. You can blame me partially for the wording in the Collective Agreement dealing with Trade Flex because I was there after that 5 week strike, and yes, that is how the language came about.
I thought I would make some comments first of all about business climate, labour relations climate, and then talk about what you can do to help and with what kind of context you should approach flexibility, productivity and training. It is important for us to recognize that we are living in changed and changing economic and business times. True competitiveness has truly arrived in every aspect of our economy. World competitiveness is a norm for most industries and what is frustrating for business, as a whole, is that business and price cycles are much more difficult to predict based on this global competitiveness. I remember sitting back talking to people from the pulp bureau and people from the mining industry 15 years ago and they could predict the price of pulp, they could predict the price of copper, the price of coal almost to the penny years out in the future. Now what happens is, if you look at the prices they are warping all over the place because of this competitiveness.
That means companies are striving more that ever before to reduce operating costs and find ways to become more cost competitive. The cliche' that is being used is, the key to competitive advantage is 'Increased Productivity'. I needn't tell you people i~ the jobs in which you're at, that no matter how hard you perform and how hard your work force performs, more is not enough. It is always push, push, push from the top.
The other thing that is frustrating for management is, that layers in most management in organizations have disappeared. In flatter organizations line management is required to assume a much greater role. Changes are happening very, very quickly and organizations must cope with massive changes on a regular basis and particularly in your roles.