1. John Scott Northwood Pulp
Brian, we have 27 mills represented here for this conference and we probably all think that each one of us is doing the best on trade flexibility. Overall, how do you think the province of B.C. is doing in trade flexibility? Are we moving ahead satisfactorily?
For those of you who don't know, I was thrown full bore into the Fletcher dispute in the fall of '94 and then in early '95 when the 5 week strike happened, and what happened during the course of that dispute, management tabled the eastern experience. That is what it was, the eastern experience, and they tabled operator flex and full trade flex. You are dealing with two unions that don't like change, they just went completely ballistic and you had a 5 week strike. After the strike we decided operator flex had to go. This cultural change was just too quick for these people so we tried to get modified trade flex. We played with the word literally for 3 or 4 days. We were in mediation for 10 days but we didn't spend much time on salaries and the benefits, most of that stuff had already been dealt with before I got involved. But we spent days playing with the words and writing clarification memos. Then after the agreement was signed, they got me on the phone because the unions and the employers were taking different positions as to what the words actually meant. I had to define it to say - you had this much flex. In most of the conversations I had with the union bargaining committees and management together in the same room, in which they posed me questions, they were these convoluted questions and there were always hidden agendas with it.
I think over time, as a result of:
Firstly, the wording of the collective agreement, and Secondly, over the clarification memos and clarification meetings that were held, and Thirdly, over management's thoughtful way in which it is being introduced,
in most jurisdictions, I think, trade flex has come a long way.
If you go back, you've got to say to yourself "God, it hasn't come that far, we're unhappy with it". Well, what did you expect overnight when everything was static for x number of years. Now, it varies from mill to mill depending the union personality you are dealing with, and how tough those trades people are. Yes, it varies all over the map, but it is not complete flex. As a general rule, flexibility has come a long way from what I anticipated it . I thought, incidentally, you were going to have these words agreed to and there will be confrontation at every work place. As a result of consultation