Construction conference eyes tech enhancements

Speakers announce better access to financial, recruiting information

NEW WAYS OF getting job-related information into the hands of construction Boilermakers and lodge leaders highlighted the Construction Division conference at Marco Island, Fla., March 5-9. Among the technology improvements discussed were a new Web site for the Boilermaker National Funds, direct deposit of member payroll checks, and an Internet-based travel card and recruiting system. The conference also focused on manpower and recruitment needs, referral rule changes, opportunities for work in the biofuels industry, jurisdictional issues, training, and the status of the national funds.

National Funds moves ahead with strategic plan

CURTIS G. BARNHILL, EXECUTIVE administrator of the Boilermaker National Funds, announced that operational changes are under way as part of the Funds office strategic plan. He said work has been completed on the first phase of a new Web site designed to offer participants convenient access to Funds information. The site — — includes links to health care provider directories. Barnhill said that in the future members will be able to access their annuity accounts via the Internet.

Other components of the strategic plan include setting up a new customer service department, adding staff, and modernizing computer and phone systems. Barnhill said the changes are aimed at “faster, more accurate claims processing.”

Len Beauchamp, associate executive administrator for the national funds, reported that the health and welfare fund is seeing higher contributions, with man-hours on the rise. “This is not a small operation,” he noted. “We are about the fifth or sixth largest Taft-Hartley fund, with 145 employers making contributions.”

The conference also heard about the status of the various funds from the board of trustees and fund consultants. Because of new federal legislation, changes must be made to the Boilermakers & Blacksmiths Pension Trust. A new subcommittee has been formed for this purpose. It was noted that the Officers & Employees Pension Trust has been strengthened after improvements made last year.

Direct deposit could help with payroll issues

INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT NEWTON Jones and Boilermaker Bank & Trust President Cal Roberts discussed an initiative to set up direct deposit of payroll checks to the BB&T. Jones said the current system is antiquated and that most industries have already moved to direct deposit. “The process of delivering checks to the worksite is cumbersome and costly for the contractors,” he said, “and our members often pay large fees to cash their checks, or they have problems getting them cashed.”

Roberts said that with direct deposit, members would receive their weekly earnings faster, that money would be available through ATMs or online, and that the BB&T would offer debit card accounts. Members would be free to use their bank of choice for the direct deposit service.

Jones said direct deposit is good for all parties involved. He noted that International headquarters uses the system, at considerable savings. He added that, because the Brotherhood has substantial ownership in the BB&T, switching to direct deposit would also benefit the union’s overall financial strength.

Canadians kick off online travel card and recruiting

WESTERN CANADA IVP Joe Maloney and Eastern Canada IVP Ed Power announced implementation of an innovative system to register member travel cards and recruit new members online. The travel card capability enables members to stay current on referral lists without having to physically travel to another local.

As a recruiting tool, the system allows applicants to enter and update their resumes, Maloney noted. “A business manager can use the system to review applications, which are classified by welders, mechanics, and apprentices.” Maloney said that although the system has only recently gone live, applicants are already using it to sign up.

The Canadian Boilermakers’ new Web site ( offers a link to the system under the “members” tab.

IP Jones urges recruiting, referral changes

DISCUSSING THE NEED for more members to meet manpower needs in the near future, IP Jones reminded the conference that the union increased construction Boilermakers by 10,000 members in response to man-hour demands in 2001 and 2002. With another surge in job growth expected for the next 10 to 12 years, he urged U.S. lodges to get involved in adopting an online travel card and recruiting system using the Canadian program as a model.

Jones also discussed needed changes to the current U.S. referral program. “It does not make sense,” Jones said, “to tell a guy he has to drive 600 miles to put his name on a list. We have to think beyond the old ways and start putting together a new plan that will work much better for us.” Jones added that he will appoint a committee to review the referral rules in light of the expanded recruitment needs.

Jones and MOST Administrator Bill Palmisano provided an update on the recruitment program now in place. They introduced the five new recruiters employed by MOST. They include James Cooksey, Western States; Travis May, Southeast Area; C. Anthony Smarra, Northeast Area; Brian Loftus, Great Lakes Area; and Roman Alaniz Jr. Central States.

Also discussed during this session was work done by the NTL and local construction lodge jurisdictions.

One of the conference highlights was an initiative by Local 146 (Edmonton, Alberta) to bring in Brazilian workers to assist in the massive oil sands projects. The local has entered into an arrangement with the STIIC union whereby Brazilian welders will be able to supplement Canadian Boilermakers. The head of STIIC was welcomed as a guest speaker.

Biofuel projects present opportunities for Boilermakers

SKIPPER BRANSCUM, DIRECTOR of Construction Division Services, moderated a panel discussion of the growing biofuels industry, which is creating new jobs for Boilermakers in Canada and the U.S.

International Reps Cory Channon, Norm Ross, Clay Herford, Marty Stanton, and Mark Vandiver took part in the presentation. They described the types of projects that Boilermakers might be involved in, such as furnaces, process vessels, storage tanks, and related components. Stanton reviewed a typical corn-based dry milling process for producing ethanol, noting elements that would be claimed under Boilermaker jurisdiction.

The panel stated that other needs related to biofuel production — including rail car and barge construction — may offer work opportunities as well. IRs Herford and Tony Palmisano also discussed jurisdiction in refinery expansion and environmental projects, and CDS Director Branscum reviewed water and steam cycles in power plants.

Safety awards, special event inspire conference

THE ANNUAL NACBE safety awards presentation gave Boilermakers and contractors an opportunity to recognize the top-performing locals in the United States. Local 587, Orange, Texas, took the national honors for 2006. (See related article on page xx.)

NACBE also treated those attending the conference to an evening with Abraham Lincoln (motivational speaker Gene Griessman, Ph.D.), who performed as the 16th U.S. president. Griessman later addressed the conference on the topic of leaders and high achievers.

An unannounced award ceremony took place when IP Newton Jones called IP Emeritus C.W. Jones to the podium to receive his 65-year membership pin. The younger Jones cited C.W.s’ lengthy membership as well as his leadership with the Brotherhood, which included 20 years as International president.

Systems help lodges identify, plan for work

FINDING WORK AND ensuring that sufficient manpower is available to perform that work were the topics of two conference presentations. Lamar Blanton of Industrial Info Resources spoke about a business development database which is available to all Boilermaker construction lodges. Accessible through the Internet, the database provides detailed, up-to-date information about planned construction projects across a range of industries. Project start dates, cost projections, and contact information are some of the information that is available. Lodge leaders can sign up for e-mail alerts for specific projects and print reports tailored to their region and interests.

The conference also heard from Larry Wargo, consultant for contractor services with FirstEnergy Corp. He explained the features of the manpower tracking system developed under the tripartite alliance. The Internet-based system allows lodges to see where they stand with member allocations and to plan for future project staffing. Wargo and Bridget Conner, who administers the system for MOST, invited lodge leaders to a training session during the conference.