West Coast Trip Report
New guidelines for member – union meetings on NRC premises
For my May 2015 update I will recap the RCEA’s West Coast trip and member visits to Victoria, Vancouver and Saskatoon. It was my first trip and my pleasure to travel and meet members.
After consultation with your Executive Committee on April 28, 2015, I have also been asked to give a written report on why this trip was different from previous years.
For over 30 years, the President of the RCEA has travelled to various NRC locations across the country to meet with members. For interest, in 1966 the first meetings took place at the NRC cafeteria in Ottawa. The RCEA has always met its members at their locations for their convenience and to lessen the impact on their work hours. Over the last few years, meetings have been held from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with snacks provided. Time taken was pre-approved with supervisors and/or managers and was made up. I had not yet travelled out to the west coast to introduce myself to members since I began in January 2014 and was anxious to do so. We planned our visits for April 20-23, 2015 to Vancouver, Victoria and Saskatoon, and as always been the practice, the GMs of the Portfolios were contacted about the dates and times.
When I made these initial inquiries about our visits to General Managers, I was following guidelines sent from NRC Labour Relations. On March 5, 2015, I spoke to the NRC VP HR about these meetings and inquired about who to contact at IRAP about a meeting to be held at the Vancouver site. The same inquiry was also sent in an email from me. On March 8, 2015, I received a phone call from the NRC Manager, Labour Relations, Pay and Benefits, inquiring about our travel plans; he wanted to know date, time and locations of the meetings. I provided this information in an email on March 12, 2015. During the call, I explained that I had not yet met members in these locations, and that the meetings would be “Meet and Greets” with a Question and Answer session. I explained that there was no firm agenda beyond this. The NRC Manager, Labour Relations, Pay and Benefits, stated that given the contentious state of the upcoming rounds of bargaining, NRC was concerned that the RCEA would be discussing things at these meetings that might be contrary to the interests of NRC – these included such topics as collective bargaining and strike strategy. I explained that as RCEA had not yet begun bargaining for any of its six bargaining units, this would not likely occur and that bargaining strategy was discussed by the individual group bargaining committees, not at general membership meetings. At the end of this phone call, the Manager Labour Relations indicated that he would get back to the RCEA with respect to these meetings.
On March 18 and 19, 2015, I contacted the Executive Director, IRAP Vancouver, as had been subsequently requested of me, where I requested permission to meet with members there at 9:00 a.m. The Executive Director responded on March 23, 2015, agreeing to the request.
On April 8, 2015, I received the attached guidelines (Use of NRC Premises, Facilities and Services) on email from the NRC Manager, Labour Relations, Pay and Benefits. On April 9, 2015, for myself and for members, I wanted to get an understanding of why procedures were changing so drastically. I sent the attached letter to Mr. John McDougall, NRC President. He replied on April 10, 2015.
As a result, it was decided that alternative arrangements would be made for the meetings in Vancouver and Saskatoon. With respect to Victoria, we decided to request permission to meet onsite due to the remote and isolated location of the site. An email was sent to the GM on April 13, 2015 requesting permission to meet members there over the lunch period, on site but off hours, for a meet and greet, Q&A. This request was in line with the new guidelines sent.
Joan Van Den Bergh, the RCEA Negotiator, and I were scheduled to leave on April 19, 2015 with the first meeting taking place in Victoria on April 20, 2015. On April 18, 2015, at 6:00 p.m. EST, I received a response from the GM Victoria, declining the request to meet members on site over the lunch period. This response came 12 hours prior to our departure for the west coast. As a result, we had to scramble to find an alternate site for the lunch meeting.
Meetings were held in Vancouver, Saskatoon and Victoria. All meetings were held offsite. Two meetings had to be held in restaurants, which are certainly not conducive to membership involvement.
These actions by NRC represent a drastic change from past practice. The failure of NRC to respond in a timely manner or to respond in the manner suggested by John McDougall’s letter of April 10, 2015 certainly made the scheduling and holding of these meetings difficult. But they were held and I am pleased to say that quite a few members (although not as many as in past years) were able to attend. Fruitful discussions took place. I am happy I got a chance to meet many of the members in those locations.
This new approach by NRC will certainly impact future meetings. But we will continue to meet and inform the membership and to fight for our member’s rights.