Clerical stewards and other worksite leaders plan campaign strategy at Weakley Hall on June 19.
When PG&E’s “Transformation” project crashed and burned in 2007, IBEW clerical workers pulled PG&E’s fat out of the fire on a daily basis. They devised work-arounds on the fly, helping avert a business catastrophe.
So you’d think there might be just a little room for gratitude now that it’s time to negotiate a new Clerical bargaining agreement. But if PG&E management feels any appreciation for Clerical’s vital service during the Transformation fiasco, it’s hard to find in the bargaining proposals they presented at Weakley Hall on June 11.
While claiming to be “protecting” current Clerical workers, the company proposes giving management the authority to contract out the work being performed at Call Centers as well as the Bill/Print/Mail facility. “Contract out” is a slightly more polite way of saying, “Thanks for the memories but we’d like to give your jobs to somebody else.”
Clerical leaders report out possible campaign slogans after small group brainstorming sessions.
PG&E’s opening proposals also signaled the company’s plan to create a two-tier wage structure that would impose drastically lower wages on all future hires. The starting wage for a new utility clerk, for example, would be $10.70—compared to the current rate of $14.91.
This wage reduction of nearly 30% would put some Clerical employees well below the “living wage” standards set by some northern California cities.
The union, in contrast, called for preserving wage security and job security for Clerical workers who have served the company so ably—in good times and bad. The union’s opening proposal calls for fair and equitable wages to help Clerical members support their families. It seeks to improve work/life balance through alternative work schedules, vacation, and funeral leave. It proposes better training and opportunities for advancement, on the theory that the company benefits when it helps employees reach their full potential.
The union’s opening proposals were distilled from more than 2200 proposals received from Clerical members during the spring. They represent the members’ belief that they have helped PG&E become a better, stronger company and that their contribution should be recognized where it counts the most: at the bargaining table.
Business Manager Tom Dalzell noted during the official exchange of proposals that Local 1245 had stood with the company during its bankruptcy, and again during Transformation, despite our deep skepticism about the wisdom of that project.
When Transformation ended up nearly paralyzing the company, “Our members did what they’ve always done,” said Dalzell. Where the company’s plans failed to work, Clerical members “kept the company going until you could figure it out.”
The creative work-arounds that union members devised to help the company get through that crisis, he said, “is a real testament to the loyalty of the Clerical bargaining unit.”
Dalzell chronicled other situations where the union had provided PG&E with strategic assistance in dealing with a large backlog of gas leaks, the troubled roll-out of SmartMeter technology, and other threats to its business.
“So when we come to negotiations we hope for a fair outcome,” he said. “Negotiations present the single best opportunity for the company to demonstrate its appreciation for what … our members, your employees, have done for and with the company.”
2,500 at the Table
The union has signaled its plan to bring all 2,500 IBEW Clerical members to the bargaining table in this year’s negotiations. OK, maybe they won’t be there physically, but the coming contract campaign will make it seem like they are.
Over 50 Clerical stewards and union staff met at Weakley Hall on June 19 to ramp up the member mobilization that will be needed to achieve a successful contract. The first project: a member petition that rejects contracting out and two-tier wages. Teams of “on-site volunteers” have already been established to carry the petitions into every PG&E location where Clerical members work.
Members of the Physical bargaining unit can also sign the petition as a way to express support for the Clerical cause. With Physical bargaining scheduled for 2011, mutual support will be critical to the success of both units.
Business Manager Tom Dalzell discusses PG&E’s opening proposal for Clerical bargaining at Clerical leaders conference on June 19.