“You are making history today. If you are successful out in the field, we will end up creating two or three hundred jobs at PG&E.”
That’s what Business Manager Tom Dalzell told 16 people who came to IBEW 1245’s Weakley Hall on Sept. 5 to be trained as traffic controllers for PG&E.
With this pilot program, IBEW 1245 is training and dispatching flaggers to perform traffic control at PG&E worksites in the North Bay. It is a program, says Senior Assistant Business Manager Joe Osterlund, “that gives folks in the community an opportunity to get their foot in the door at PG&E, a good company, and get into the utility business.”
Traditionally, meter reading has been an entry point into PG&E, but “Smart Meters” have been steadily eliminating those positions. Traffic control could become a new point of entry into PG&E, said Dalzell. For some workers, traffic control may be a perfect fit for what they want, while for others it can be “a way to get in, look around at the apprenticeships and start moving into other positions,” he said.
Traffic control at PG&E is provided largely by contractors, but historically the work was performed by regular PG&E employees represented by IBEW 1245. While contract employees play an important role in handling peak work load, permanent in-house jobs provide greater long-term security for workers.
“This is a seed being planted, to try to get this work back,” said J.V. Macor, the IBEW 1245 business representative in the North Bay area where the traffic control pilot is being launched. “We hope that it grows.”
Macor envisions the traffic control pilot expanding. He hopes that other PG&E divisions will say, “Hey, we want that in our division, we want that same level of service, we want that at night now, we want that during the day. Gas wants it. Electric wants it.
“When they see what that does to the morale of the workgroup, how it builds it up, how they have dedicated employees who will do this, who take ownership of what they do, that’s going to grow,” said Macor.
For now, the program is an IBEW 1245 Hiring Hall pilot. The next step will be to get another group in to receive the training and expand the program through the North Bay and hopefully beyond.
“It may continue to be a Hiring Hall pilot, or maybe it will be time to sit down and negotiate with PG&E for a traffic control department,” said Osterlund.
Osterlund credited PG&E Gas Operations, and Labor Relations Director Steve Rayburn, with helping get the traffic control pilot off the ground.
“Labor and management have been moving forward together on this,” said Osterlund, “because everybody sees that it has such great potential.”