By Jenny Marston, IBEW 1245 Senior Assistant Business Manager
This month, newly created lead clerks (holding the classification of Senior Operating Clerk 1-2) within Gas Operations reported to their new assignments in the following local headquarters: Oakland, Stockton, Vacaville, Vallejo, & Cinnabar. Over the coming months, more lead clerks will be added to additional headquarters. The new classification will play a key role in ensuring that operating clerical supporting Gas Operations in the headquarters are provided consistent and dedicated support.
The establishment of this new classification was one of many positive changes brought about by the efforts of a committee of seven dedicated clerical bargaining unit members who support the different organizations within PG&E’s Gas Operations.
“Don’t tolerate it. Fix it.”
It all began with a conversation. In Spring of 2014, Berta Aceves, an operating clerk and Local 1245 shop steward in attendance with 28 years of service commented to Nick Stavropoulous, then-Executive Vice President of Gas Operations, that she was pleased with the changes that he was putting in place within Gas Operations and hoped that he wouldn’t forget about the clerical since clerical touch most everything relating to work and projects from start to finish. Stavropoulous agreed with Aceves that the clerical should not be left behind.
Soon thereafter, Sabrina Lynch, PG&E Manager, was assigned to review the status of operating clerical within gas operations. With input from operating clerks across PG&E’s system, Lynch identified four general areas of focus:
1) Evaluating clerical workload;
2) Reviewing and improving existing work processes;
3) Reviewing and improving existing training for bargaining unit clerical (both onboarding and regular refresher training); and
4) Ensuring that local headquarters have adequate staffing/support structure to get the work done.
PG&E and Local 1245 then set up a joint assessment of the clerical support and gas operations. The parties established a steering committee, comprised of leadership from PG&E and the union, and two subcommittees, one comprised of clerical bargaining unit members who supported different organizations within gas operations, and another comprised of gas operations front-line supervisors.
The role of the bargaining unit committee members in this initiative was significant. They provided their insight and expertise into the clerical activities associated with their discipline; identified higher priority challenges facing clerical; looked for possible solutions through peer to peer contact; participated in all-day committee work sessions and weekly conference calls; communicated the committee’s progress to fellow bargaining unit members; defined a comprehensive list of end-to-end processes for all clerical tasks to be used for improving processes as well as training; and assisted with roll out of approved solutions.
When Aceves got the call to be part of the bargaining unit committee, she quickly jumped on the opportunity because she wanted “to bring attention and focus to the invaluable job that the operating clerical contributes to daily operations.”
Committee member Donna Leatherman has 36 ½ years with PG&E in the Stockton area, but has never served on a committee before this one. She felt compelled to participate in this assessment “to get a more reasonable work-life balance for our colleagues and acquire more work support for our colleagues.”
Of the committee’s many accomplishments, Leatherman says she is most proud of generating “recognition that clerical roles are critical and integral to operational results.” When asked if she had any words of encouragement for newer members to the union, Leatherman’s advice was simple: “Speak up!”
Santa Rosa Operating Clerk Bill Hunt, a 30-year shop steward with Local 1245 and a current member of the general bargaining committee, explained why he decided to participate in the assessment.
“Company-wide, we had a serious issue with clerical training and the practice of onboarding new clerks needed to be fixed,” said Hunt. “If it’s broken, don’t tolerate it. Fix it, so you don’t take the stress home to your family and worry over work issues on your time.”
“The union is like any organization, in that you get out of it what you put in to it. It’s easy to sit back and complain about things, but it’s far better to get involved and work to fix the problem/issue, and it’s a lot more satisfying to be able to say ‘I saw that problem and fixed it,’” Hunt continued. “We all bring different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences to the union. That’s what gives us our strength.”
Aceves echoed these sentiments, and encouraged bargaining unit members to “Participate, share your experiences, and recognize the value that you bring to this union and to PG&E.”
Feedback from clerical within Gas Support Services regarding these changes has been overwhelmingly positive. Over the summer of 2015, clerical members who migrated to Gas Support Services were given a voluntary survey. 85% of those who responded felt part of PG&E; 75% felt they were given good learning opportunities as well as the tools and resources to do their job; and 70% felt the workload expectations were manageable.
As 2015 draws to a close, here are some achievements brought about by the work of this bargaining unit committee:
Dedicated Clerical Organization, along with Clerical Line-of-Progression
- All operating clerks were transitioned into Gas Support Services, a dedicated clerical support organization.
- Letter Agreement 15-22 was negotiated and signed, which established Leads Clerks (Sr. Operating Clerk I-II) in the Local Headquarters
- Reduced reliance on hiring hall clerical and increase in regular status clerical employees within Gas Operations.
Improved Quality and Content of Training of Clerical Employees
- Identify all tasks for disciplines within Gas Operations & validate curriculum of training needed to complete these tasks as well as training related to compliance-related items.
- Identified clerical preferences for receiving training which indicated preference for on-site or in-person training.
Improved Employee Engagement
- Increased efforts to better communicate with clerical employees regarding operations and needed clerical support and impacts
- Improved Recognition of clerical contributions
And that conversation between Aceves and Stavropoulous continues to this day.
“Nick still emails me on occasion to check in and see how things are going,” According to Aceves. “Working in close partnership with IBEW, Nick and his team have made a HUGE difference.”
Clerical Unit Gas Ops Subcommittee
|Gas M&C, Superintendent support
|Diablo & North Bay
|M&C, Leak Survey, Locate & Mark
|Field Services, Manager Support
|Field Services, Manager Support
*At time of appointment to committee.