A delegation of 12 members and four staffers from IBEW Local 1245 joined other union members from across the U.S. and Canada at the Inter-Union Gas Conference (IUGC), which took place Sept. 18-21 in Portland, OR.
The IUGC is an annual convening in its 37th year, and participating unions take turns hosting the conference each year. This year’s conference was hosted by the IBEW, and included participants from the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), the United Steel Workers (USW), the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA), and the United Food and Commercial Workers/International Chemical Workers Union (UFCW/ICWU).
Local 1245 helped lead two featured workshops at IUGC this year, including “Leaks and How They Influence our Future,” and “Recruiting the Workforce of the Future.” Assistant Business Manager Anthony Brown served as a speaker on both panels.
The IUGC also touched on important subjects that are not often discussed, such as workplace violence. In the last year, three utility members were shot and killed on the job. A presenter spoke about the need to be aware of your surroundings always. It was noted that member safety trainings tend to discuss how to respond to an “active shooter” situation in an office, but not in the field.
Local 1245 members were actively engaged throughout the conference, and were not shy on the microphone when it came to the workshops that dealt with clerical, distribution, service, transmission and storage issues.
Hearing from other gas utility workers was both informative and eye-opening. The most shocking bit of information came from a utility in Kansas that has GPS trackers sewn into their shirts and pants. The company says this measure was put into place in case the uniforms get stolen, but their members are not sure that is the truth.
The experience of sitting in a room with peers from all over the United States and Canada is helpful in many ways. In some areas, Local 1245 members are better off than most in terms of working conditions, while in other areas, we are behind the industry. For the most part, members from all over are all struggling with the exact same things. Examples of the challenges we all face are staffing, emergency response (or lack thereof), training, OQ’s, Contractors, leak detection technology, absenteeism, and smart meters, just to name a few.
Networking with other gas employees from all over North America remains one of the strengths of the IUGC, as it gives us the opportunity to strategize and tackle the future challenges to our industry and workforce. Emails and phone numbers were exchanged and the information will continue to be shared, as we all know we are much stronger together.
We look forward to 2018, when our Canadian brothers from UNIFOR will host the IUGC in Niagra Falls.
–Lou Mennel, IBEW 1245 Business Rep