May Council Meeting: Changing, Updating and Preparing for the Future

May 28, 2012

The 2012 May Council meeting agenda was a busy one, focused on bringing Council members up to date with the day-to-day operations of the union, the work of the committees and the challenging task of updating the Constitution and By-Laws.

In the President’s report to Council David Black spoke about the recent decision by the provincial government to issue a Special Direction to the BC Utilities Commission imposing Hydro rates which will saddle BC Hydro with even more debt further down the road. MoveUP is active at the Commission and was planning to present evidence at the rate hearing, which the province effectively cancelled. Black also spoke about the ICBC essential services application in front of the Labour Board, gave a brief report on the Los Mineros convention in Mexico City and the legal victories won by the union’s general secretary Napoleon Gomez.

For the financial report, Secretary-Treasurer Lori Mayhew reviewed the recent March and April statements, and took a look at the change in finances from 2011 to 2012, noting positive effect made to the bottom line by changes to the constitution and by-laws from the Special Extraordinary Meeting of last year. Mayhew took a moment to remind the Councillors about the new expenses policy and the timely remittance of expense forms.

Vice President Gwenne Farrell reported back for the Education Committee Gwenne by reviewing the pilot Union Representative training program and the recent Job Steward Level 2 training course. The Union Rep training program received 23 applicants for 3 positions. Due to the high quality of applicants the committee was faced with difficult decisions and chose the stated educational requirements as their guide. The three successful applicants were Stephen Von Sychowski (Coast Mountain Bus), Ingrid Ericson (BC Federation of Labour) and Trevor Hansen (ICBC). The trainees will spend their time job shadowing MoveUP’s reps with the goal of teaching them to advance grievances to stage 3 and to arbitration as well as learning the union’s database and filing system UnionWare. Farrell noted that she is interested in working with the applicants who were not selected by working with them on an education and development program. It’s just the first year, she reminded Council, and encouraged the other 20 applicants to try again next year.

Farrell reported that the Job Steward level 2 course garnered 19 enthusiastic participants from a wide variety of bargaining units, and that the Fortis Call Centres were very well represented. The committee is looking at holding another Job Steward Level 1 course in the fall in conjunction with a Facing Management course.
The Audit Committee report was given by Executive Board Member Calvin Jonas. Jonas presented to Council the revised terms of reference for the committee. The changes were aimed at dealing with both the substantive changes to the committee’s mandate and several housekeeping issues. The Audit Committee worked on the changes in consultation with lawyer and Vancity director Catherine McCreary.

Later in the meeting Council acclaimed long-time activist John Hooker the Audit Committee in place of Carrol Edwards. Edwards recently resigned her position when she became a full-time union representative with MoveUP.

Over the last year or so MoveUP‘s members had voted on and made changes which needed to be properly incorporated into the union’s Constitution and By-Laws, including changes to election timing and financial management. Executive Board member Tim Weiglet heads the Constitution and By-Laws Committee and he gave a substantive report which proposed the necessary changes and updates to the governance procedures. The changes to the By-Laws were all passed and will soon be updated to the MoveUP website. The Committee’s changes to the Constitution were approved and will be brought forward as recommendations from Council to MoveUP’s fall convention for final approval.

Political Action Co-chair (and new MoveUP Councillor) Korleen Carreras began the Political Action Committee report with very good news – the arrival of two new NDP MLAs to legislature. Carreras detailed the member-to-member campaign MoveUP ran in March and April of 2012 to contact and connect with our members in Chilliwack-Hope and Port Moody-Coquitlam where Gwen O’Mahoney and Joe Trasolini won respectively. Carreras also announced her intention to seek the BC NDP nomination in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, and thanked MoveUP for our endorsement. Vice President Jeff Gillies picked up the report at that point to speak about the federal scene. He reported on some of the controversial inclusions in the federal budget and the changes to Employment Insurance which will remove the definition of "suitable work" and allows for a cabinet definition. While a federal election is years away the poll numbers have the NDP surging forward with points to 36 points to the Conservative’s 32, and the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair as Canadian’s top choice amongst all federal leaders.

President David Black paused to take a moment acknowledge devastating milestone – the jobs of several Accenture members who worked on the portion of the contract that was lost will soon end. Black thanked those members for their contribution to MoveUP and their service to BC Hydro. The loss of these members underscores the importance of electing governments that value public institutions and would support labour rights such as successorship.

Vice President Gwenne Farrell reported out on her recent visit to the World Energy Forum in Quebec. Farrell was joined by MoveUP’s Legal Director Jim Quail. Between the two of them they were able to attend most panels and were unanimous in their opinion that the Forum lacked opposing or alternative views of the industry and its future. Farrell said it was clear that the honeymoon with renewables was over for most in industry – renewables were not viewed as able to solve energy crisis. The decreasing costs of shale gas are making sales more difficult for natural gas. Quail had an interesting discussion with a sales delegate from a smart meter company; the representative said the ability to detect power outages could easily be managed by an inexpensive sensor at one-tenth the cost of a smart meter. A delegate from a utility from Belgium told Farrell that their analysis smart meters actually came up with a negative cost benefit. The Belgian rep opined that energy regulators succumbing to lobbying. Farrell noted that over half of delegates at the Forum were from industry there with the express purpose to lobby regulators and government officials. Farrell felt MoveUP’s presence was important to provide a missing perspective.

Councillor Joslyn Jenkins reported out on the BC Federation of Labour’s Thompson-Okanogan Regional Conference, held in Kelowna on May 25 and 26. The theme was Union in the Community, and the goal of the conference was to increase union activism among members. On the Friday of the Conference the participants held a Rally for Spring Valley – Spring Valley is a seniors home where 130 health care workers given were given layoff notice. This isn’t the first time the seniors at Spring Valley have had their care givers laid off and the contract changed. The provincial news picked up the story and cornered Premier Christy Clark who happened to be in Kelowna at the same time.