Message to Alberta members from General Presidents’ Maintenance Committee for Canada

April 28, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

I hope this communication finds you and your family safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. I want to begin by saying thank you to all those who continue to execute maintenance work under the GPMA and NMA Agreements in Alberta. It is through your sacrifice and dedication to our industry and your craft that many of the industrial facilities across the province have been able to continue to operate. Your contributions have not gone unnoticed. I can only imagine the mental toll working in the current environment must place on our members; it must be difficult having to ply your skills and maintain the proper social distancing required in order to ensure your safety and that of your co-workers. For those out of work it must also be difficult; when will I return to work, how am I going to provide for my family are some of the many questions which you must be asking yourself on a daily basis. We are all struggling together as we work our way through the new environment we live in and I hope that we begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel shortly.

This year was supposed to be a year of prosperity for the maintenance workers in Alberta; a year in which there were a number of spring maintenance activities planned throughout the province. The conversations I envisioned having were discussions with your local union leaders trying to determine how we were going to fill the manpower requests for the work in front of us. Today, we should be in the middle of several significant maintenance events; but we’re not. We are in the middle of a pandemic, we are in the middle of massive layoffs, we are in the middle of uncharted times. Most Clients have deferred their spring turnarounds, cancelled capital expenditures (which ultimately has an impact on us) and they have throttled back to having only essential services working within their facilities. Clients are trying how to figure out how work can be safely executed on their sites while not putting our members at risk.

We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and to make matters worse we have also been hit by record lows for the price of oil. As you know, most of our maintenance work within the province is tied to the petrochemical industry and the all-time low oil prices have had a profound effect on many of our Clients. It should come as no surprise to anyone that several Clients have reached out to our contracting partners and have asked for some help. They have asked our contractors to talk with the union leadership to look for cost savings; and work with them through these difficult times.
From a union perspective we have two choices: 1) We can stay the course and do absolutely nothing and hope that we do not lose any market share, or 2) We can be responsive to our industry’s current state, exercise leadership and show that we are an important part of the industry and will be partners in finding a solution . As always, the Committee will fight for the interests of our members, but our expectations need to reflect the reality that surrounds us, and we must continue to protect our market position. Together we have worked hard over the years and many of you have made sacrifices in order to maintain what we have. The Committee is not willing to give that away by merely doing nothing.

Your respective Committee member(s) (excluding the Boilermakers International) have examined, discussed and debated several options over the last number of weeks and have reached a consensus on what we believe is necessary to protect our position in the industry while minimizing the impact on our members. We have made temporary adjustments to our collective agreements which have been captured in Letters of Understanding which may be viewed at the end of this communication and are also posted on our website at .
Please feel free to reach out to your International Representative on our Committee or to my office should you have any questions.
Brett McKenzie Executive Director General Presidents’ Maintenance Committee for Canada