Monthly Archives: March 2012

Rumours kill unity. Communication kills rumours.

The time is 8:13

First I want to send a thank you to Jim Laliberte for his work these last many years. I don’t know you, but the work you did needed to get done, and you were there doing it. Thanks for your efforts, and good luck with whatever forced you to leave.

Now I want to discuss something that has bothered me since I began working under CAW333.

Communication. Specifically communication between the union executive … the President … and the members.

Some background. In Calgary the union President was tasked with pretty much all of the same things as our President is tasked with here. He or she was always busy, and considering the attitude of management in Calgary, he was often kept busy dealing with affairs that were very emotional. That’s because, unlike here in Victoria where the dirty work of management is very often taken care of by the provincial government through bogus initiatives like Net Zero, in Calgary it was the manager you spoke with every day that was trying to roll back the clock.

Needless to say, the acrimony between the union and management was thick and poisonous. The members would often times be hearing all sorts of stories floating around the lunchroom, and obviously leaving that unaddressed would severely damage union moral and unity.

It was dealt with in a simple and elegant manner.

As often as required, usually every week or two, the union President would set pen to paper and tell the members EXACTLY what was going on.

Rumours have a hard time gaining a foothold when the truth … at least how the President saw it anyway … was posted in the lunchroom for all to see. The members felt involved. They felt like their intelligence was not being questioned. They felt like whatever was going on they could have an opinion that wasn’t based on hearsay and innuendo.

They felt like they were members of a union of people, working towards the common good, and their chosen leader was keeping them in the loop.

In the eight years Shauna has been working here in Victoria, and the four I have worked here, I could count the missives to the members published and posted for the informational benefit of our members by the various leaders of CAW333 on one hand.

Three different Presidents, each with the same habit of silence to the members.

Before I continue I should acknowledge that email newsletters have been sent out to members for a while now, and they have contained a message from the President. It’s a start. The flaw however lies in the fact the members must first subscribe to these newsletters, they are only sent out once a month, and most importantly they are not also posted in the areas of work that would allow them to be seen and discussed by all the members.

The result is that the current events affecting ourselves, and more importantly our fellow members, are generally a mystery to us.

The political action committee, which I support in concept very strongly, was elected and works now in spite of the fact the vast majority of the members … including myself … couldn’t tell you the name of media insider whose hiring raised our dues $4.

The situation with Gordon Krumm is causing division and anger, and most people have no idea what’s going on. The stance of the executive on the issue is a mystery.

Jim Laliberte is leaving his position. Other than a mention during the last meeting not to gossip about why, I have no idea what’s going on. I am not alone. The rumours are therefore flying.

Negotiations for the upcoming contract? Well, I know that all of the public sector unions have been getting the shaft from the provincial government, and I know that we were supposed to start our own negotiations April 1st. I was lucky enough to have been able to attend the last meeting, so I know that negotiations are not about to start anytime soon, and that many public sector unions are speaking about working together, but more than that? Nothing. If I hadn’t attended that meeting I would be completely in the dark as to what’s going on, and I would be asking around and hearing the rumours.

Our skilled tradespeople? Handi-bus? Community Shuttle? Whatever issues they might be dealing with are opaque to me, because the day to day dealings between the union and management are not the sort of thing that gets discussed during meetings, and that leaves me feeling separated from them.

Feelings of being uninformed. Feelings of being separated from my fellow members. Guessing what’s going on and feeling, rightly or wrongly, like maybe information is being withheld from me.

Not good.

Because I have been kept away from the union, in spite of my many well documented attempts to help, I am in the awkward position of trying to help the union while they continue to do their best to ignore me. That is why I am writing this post. I want to ask our executive to consider implementing a bi-weekly letter from the President, letting the members know what’s going on in the day to day world of CAW333, so we can feel like we are involved and included. The meetings are not enough, because not enough of us can attend regularly.

The next year is going to get hot, and if we members are kept ignorant through a lack of communication from above, it is going to be very difficult to keep moral up. Unity will be strained, and that deadly sense of us vs. them …. the members vs. the union leadership …  will flourish.

I want to be putting my metal efforts towards shutting down this anti-labour Liberal machine, not working to get information that should be on the wall in the lunchroom.

The time is 8:50. The kids, a short conversation with my wife and editing mistakes cost me some time, but that 30 minutes or so has made my views on this topic known to anyone who cares to look. If I were to make a few photocopies and tape them to the board the whole membership would know exactly what I thought about the role of the executive in communicating with members.

Keeping people informed isn’t hard, it just takes a bit of effort to break the habit of secrecy.

We have made a lot of positive changes in the last little while, and I think this would be a good one to consider.