Setting the Record Straight on Management Allegations
January 14, 2020
As a result of our recent campaign and web site, New Electric has launched its own web site to communicate their position. We welcome all New Electric employees to make an informed decision on something as important to you and your family. An informed decision must be based on fact. With that in mind we would like to correct some false assumptions management may have.
Management – Rates from the union website may not apply.
The rates posted are province-wide construction rates – and much of our work is not construction. If Spark were unionized, there could be a separate negotiated agreement for non-construction work.
For our construction work, the collective agreement already exists, which includes many rigid rules and far less flexibility. The existing agreement is negotiated on a province wide basis without taking into account your interests or our business.
IBEW – Almost all of New Electric’s work would be covered under our Provincial Agreement including most of the service work performed. For the small amount of work or number of workers not covered by card-based certification, the prevailing wage would apply. We would then also seek to have this work covered by other IBEW agreements that would result in improvements for employees.
The Principal Agreement is not dictated by the IBEW. This is a living document that is negotiated every 3 years. That’s 11 IBEW locals in Ontario representing over 18,000 workers interests and approximately 1000 IBEW contractors represented by the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario. Our system has served both parties well for decades. We haven’t had a strike or lockout since 1990 and have successfully negotiated regular raises at or above inflation.
Your interests are first and foremost during negotiations. Our members have a direct say in what we bring to the negotiating table through our negotiating committees and through direct participation at monthly membership meetings.
Management – We are not working with the union.
Some of our employees have reported that union representatives have contacted them and suggested that the company is working with the IBEW to unionize – this is absolutely not true.
In addition, many of our employees have expressed frustration that their personal contact information has fallen into union hands.
We did not authorize this and we are upset that this has happened.
IBEW – We absolutely agree that we are not working with the company to unionize. However, whatever the misunderstanding, at no point did any of our reps make this allegation. We do work with our contractors on a regular basis, to ensure success for both the contractor as well as the members.
Management – With the union, you lose the ability to deal directly with us.
We enjoy dealing with you directly. We feel that is very positive.
If the IBEW becomes your union, we will have no choice but to deal with it on all matters concerning the important terms of your employment, such as compensation, hours, and work locations.
Unfortunately, this means important decisions that affect you and your family, such as whether or not to go on strike, would be made by union representatives outside of our business.
IBEW – IBEW employers have the right to manage their companies as they see fit. This includes the number of hours you work as well as work locations you report to. Our Agreement brings structure to other areas such as start times, hours worked before overtime, personal tools required and yes, compensation. Look at our rates and compare them with your current rate of pay and ask yourself if this is a bad thing?
Going on strike is the hardest decision a union member has to make in their work lives. This is an absolute last resort when all negotiating has broken down. In the IBEW, the workers ultimately make that choice through a free and fair vote. Fortunately, as previously mentioned, the IBEW’s current system of negotiations is structured to avoid this negative outcome. Without strike or lockout we have seen our wages and work conditions improve consistently since its inception in 1991.
Management – Hourly rate matters, but hours worked matters just as much.
We know you are concerned with your total take-home pay. We work hard to ensure that all of us are consistently working.
If the union is successful, the agreement will impact our flexibility and ability to assign work to you.
IBEW – This is simply not true. If unionized New Electric retains its right to direct workers and manage projects as they currently do. The IBEW has hundreds of signatory contractors that work in the same sector as New Electric under our Principal Agreement with no impediment to their ability to assign work. The primary difference is their employees are compensated at a higher rate than New Electric employees.
Management – Limits your opportunities.
Right now, we work hard to ensure that everyone is busy by sharing our workforce between branches when necessary. Union rules would significantly restrict that ability.
In addition, as we grow, some of our employees have enjoyed opportunities to work out of province or for other Spark Power companies. This would become extremely difficult.
IBEW – Post-certification, New Electric employees would retain their right to work out of province for other Spark Power companies if so inclined. Our Principal Agreement doesn’t affect that right. It simply ensures that while you are working for New Electric in the province of Ontario you are covered by the benefits of our Principal Agreement. The IBEW has contractors with work throughout the province. The mobility clause of the agreement allows for a significant portion of the work force to be sent where needed. Post-certification the last thing we want to see is New Electric employees being restricted from going to work.
Management – Signing a membership card is a big decision.
What a union really wants is your signature on a membership card, especially if it can obtain it electronically. Your signature is precious to them. Don’t give it away without a lot of thought because it may be impossible to withdraw it later. The decision to join a union is entirely up to each individual employee. You are as equally free to refuse to join a union as you are to join one.
IBEW – We fully agree, signing a card is a big decision. However, prior to an application being filed you can withdraw your card if you have a change of heart. We are encouraging all New Electric employees to review our website and make an informed decision. We will be happy to answer any further questions you may have.
Management – A small number of people can bring in the union.
It’s actually 55% of the technicians working on the day the application is filed by the union with the Labour Board that matters. If the union has at least 55% of those working that day, New Electric will automatically be certified, without a vote. As unfair as it sounds, this means that a very small number of people would be making the decision for everyone. It’s one of the reasons that signing a union card (even electronically) is so important.
IBEW – This is true. The Ontario Labour Relations Board requires over 55% of workers to support an application on the day worked. Yes, the IBEW can file on any day including weekends that employees are at work. We fully intend to have a mandate from the majority of New Electric employees before we file.
Management – Unions are a business.
Unions are a business which sell services. Their primary source of income is the collection of union dues and fees from you.
Unions have been in decline for the past several decades and are under pressure to increase their membership.
IBEW – This is false. Businesses are enterprises that sell products or services to achieve their main objective-profit. They are in turn directed entirely by the owners and shareholders to do this task with little or no real employee decision making. Unions, in particular the IBEW, is not a business. We are a non-profit organization whose only mandate is to advocate for better wages and working conditions for workers in the electrical industry. We make no “income” from this.
While it is true that union dues are the primary source of our funding, the membership has discretion and knowledge with what that money is spent on. Our members are the Union and who we are accountable to.
Union membership numbers over all continue to be on the rise in Canada. This is equally true with the IBEW in Ontario where we continue to see new members and contractors added to our numbers yearly.
All the organizers and reps involved in this campaign are licenced 309a journeymen who previously did the same work you do. Many of us were non-union prior to making the decision to join the IBEW and believed that it was the best option for ourselves and families. While we are fairly paid for our work, we do not get card signing “bonuses” or any other benefit from anyone signing a card. We all deeply believe in the work we do. The only bonus we seek is for you and your co-workers enjoying the same wages and work conditions our members benefit from.