New initiatives, carbon capture, absenteeism solutions punctuate MOST National Tripartite Alliance Conference

We’ve got to re-work this lumbering cargo ship into a streamlined, efficient and nimble combat ship. And that is exactly what we’re going to build going forward to meet the needs of those who entrust their labor needs to us.

Conference Chairman and Boilermakers International President Newton B. Jones

IP Newton B. Jones, conference chairman

   View Photo Gallery (6 photos)

IN KEEPING WITH more than three decades of the tripartite alliance strategy, the 34th annual MOST Tripartite Alliance conference kicked off with a focus on solutions to issues impacting owners, contractors and Boilermakers. Topics homed in on safety, training, manpower, absenteeism and the changing work landscape.

“Because of our tripartite alliance, we’re forward-thinking—together, and I’m confident we are on the right track to succeed together,” Conference Chairman and Boilermakers International President Newton B. Jones told attendees. “Now we have to get to the point where we can reform many of our past practices, relationships and operational rules.”

President Jones laid out new initiatives to address issues and opportunities. He unveiled plans to begin a training and job path program planned with the U.S. Army at Georgia’s Fort Benning base. Plans call for the Army to provide a building the Boilermakers can use to train soldiers who are preparing to leave the service. Over their final six-month period of service, soldiers would begin training to advance them through their first two years of Boilermaker apprenticeship. The U.S. Army would provide housing and meals during the six-months of Boilermaker training.

Additionally, he announced that the re-vamped National Transient District Lodge (NTDL) structure has launched, with a National Transient Local Lodge established for each U.S. Vice Presidential section under the “umbrella” of the NTDL. The re-imagined and re-launched NTDL puts the International in a hands-on position to affect critical changes, recruit more prospective members and put more Boilermakers to work where and when they’re needed. Establishing training centers that offer traditional and boot-camp training in each section is the next step, with the first center already operational in Salt Lake City.

President Jones also gave an update on the early wins catalyzed by the M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund, including legislative measures won in Washington State through the Western States M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund that will boost Boilermaker man-hours; efforts underway in Illinois toward similar legislation through the Great Lakes M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund; and new work gained throughout the United States at universities and other non-traditional work sites through the M.O.R.E. Work program’s job targeting strategies.

“The M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund is the best strategic plan we could devise for an uncertain future of our craft,” President Jones said, noting the need to diversify as coal-fired power generation facilities continue to shutter.

In other innovative solutions, he also provided an overview of the new affiliation agreement between the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and Utility Workers Union of America; a new Boilermaker women’s caucus, tentatively called Women At Work™; the status of Boilermaker work to advocate for CCUS; and a commitment to continue working through the National Referral Rules and Standards Committee to ensure no barriers or impediments hinder contractors from staffing their jobs.

“We will, as we have in the past, do everything possible to be the choice for owners and contractors to perform new construction, maintenance and turnaround work,” he said. “We’ve got to re-work this lumbering cargo ship into a streamlined, efficient and nimble combat ship. And that is exactly what we’re going to build going forward to meet the needs of those who entrust their labor needs to us.”

CCUS headlines conference topics

SEVERAL SPEAKERS PROVIDED insight and data around the Boilermaker’s interest in advocating for carbon capture, use and storage as the only solution to mitigate climate change while allowing a reliable and realistic mix of renewables and clean fossil fuels while also preserving jobs, the economy and social stability.

Beth Hardy, vice president of strategy and stakeholder relations for the International CCS Knowledge Centre, gave attendees insight into the organization’s next steps to drive CCUS adoption.

Reflecting on the Boilermakers’ willingness to embrace change, future-oriented enterprises and strategic alliances, Hardy commented that the Centre has made sure Boilermakers are at the table in many of their carbon capture technology outreach meetings and presentations, including at the White House and during Climate Week in New York City. Taking the same “everything on the table” approach to mitigating climate change as the Boilermakers, Hardy said the International CCS Knowledge Centre is driving multi-stakeholder initiatives by relying on partners’ knowledge and resources, among many other factors.

When discussing how the Centre determines where future CCUS projects will be located, she specifically addressed the owner attendees. “That’s where we rely on our partnerships with the Boilermakers to hear what facilities have potential,” Hardy said. “If nobody comes to us, we don’t know where we should be targeting.”

D. Michael “Mike” Langford, the Utility Workers Union of America’s president emeritus, zeroed in on the need to champion CCUS as he stressed the value of the UWUA and Boilermakers’ affiliation agreement in bringing more voices together to advocate for beneficial initiatives. The changing power-generation and manufacturing landscape, he said, make joint advocating more critical than ever.

“I’ve seen more change in the last 10 years of my 41-and-a-half-year career, than I did in the total first 31-and-a-half years. And that change is not about to stop,” he said.

He pointed to the need to bring an “all of the above” approach to addressing engineering challenges associated with cheap, reliable power for an ever-growing population; juxtaposed with the climate-change crisis.

Brad Crabtree, vice president, carbon management at the Great Plains Institute, echoed the need to ramp up advocacy for CCUS and move to implement the technology as widespread as possible.

“Carbon capture is not a niche. It needs to be deployed across our entire economy,” Crabtree said. “We can scale it up and we can deliver energy-industrial production, jobs benefits and emissions reductions.

“What most people don’t realize is that [industries that participate in CCUS technologies] have already injected nearly 1.5 billion tons of CO2 in the subsurface in the United States,” Crabtree continued. That’s about 65 million tons annually, of which around 25 million tons come from industrial or power plant sources.

“And we’ve done that with no major leaks of CO2, no fatalities and no serious injuries,” Crabtree concludes. “It works. And it works well.”

Bruce Folkedahl, senior research engineer for the Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota, walked through data showing the potential economic impact of CCUS projects.

Folkedahl’s research focused on North Dakota specifically and weighed financial investments, including tax incentives, against economic gains, such as job creation and state and local tax revenue, for developing and implementing wide-scale CCUS technologies throughout the state.

Projections show that carbon capture and enhanced oil recovery operations would have the potential to boost North Dakota’s economy to the tune of $2.5 billion in annual economic activity, more than $1.4 million in annual taxes and revenue and 8,000 annual jobs.

“The gist of this is that the benefits of this, in the state of North Dakota at least, are very clear and very positive,” Folkedahl said. “If we can utilize carbon capture to link two of our premier energy industries in the state—lignite and oil—this is great for both of them. And it’s a way to get out there [in North Dakota] and develop a road map so people can look at it and say ‘Hey, maybe we can do something like this in our states.’”

Safety tops all caucus agendas

AFTER OWNERS, CONTRACTORS and Boilermakers met in separate caucuses, caucus chairmen all named safety as the leading priority during their report-outs.

“We are constantly striving to meet the common goals of the construction industry now and in the future by helping to provide the industry with a safe and cost-effective workforce, while providing state-of-the-art technology to address the problems of the customer, contractor and craftsman,” said MOST Programs Administrator Mark Garrett during his conference welcome remarks. “With our owner, contractor and union tripartite partnership, we continue to be able to be in an established culture that provides a safe work environment for all Boilermakers.”

“I noticed that each caucus put safety at the top of their reports, which I think is appropriate,” said Labor Caucus Chairman, ED-CSO Mark Vandiver. “It has been evident that owners and contractors have prioritized safety over scheduling and productivity.”

Owner Caucus Chairman James Demes, executive director for Philadelphia Energy Solutions, pointed out that East Coast refining outages last year resulted in no incidents, “That’s a remarkable change. There’s been a tremendous and favorable trend in safety performance in the Boilermakers.”

Demes noted that the Owners Caucus hoped the Boilermakers would continue to foster and promote MOST programs and ensure new Boilermakers are exposed to those programs. He also reported that the caucus members see a need to adapt and recruit a skills-diverse workforce as the work landscape shifts and labor needs change.

Reporting for the Contractors Caucus, Chairman Mike Bray, executive vice president of Riggs Distler & Co., praised the Boilermakers safety record, the relaunched National Transient District Lodge model and programs like The Boilermaker Code. He highlighted absenteeism as an issue that needs to improve, and he noted that contractors can play an important role by getting rid of the bad seeds.

“We would like to see [absenteeism] addressed at the apprenticeship level,” he said. “This tripartite really works. Ten, 20, 30 years ago it was a different attitude among all three parties in general in my opinion. This was the most upbeat meeting I’ve been involved with.”

Vandiver reported that Labor Caucus members requested an increase in the use of jobs stewards daily for project safety walk-downs and to consider bringing back MOST safety representatives for all major projects. Those in the Labor Caucus also discussed Common Arc and the need for the program to be reviewed relative to testing costs and proctor consistency.

“We want to convey to our contractors that we are willing to work together as a team to improve the program, which will improve the industry standard,” Vandiver said. Finally, Labor Caucus members praised owners for using union contractors but noted there are some nonunion companies performing work that was historically within the Boilermakers’ jurisdiction.

“We want to reassure you that our members are trained to perform all work that has been historically claimed and performed by Boilermakers. We also want you to know we have agreements that reduce costs for your projects through reduced rates for some classifications such as helpers, hole watcher and fire watcher, which makes us more competitive,” said Vandiver.

Absenteeism addressed in new Canadian Boilermaker film

A NEW VIDEO, which debuted during the conference, explores the effects of absenteeism and “no shows” on employers, contractors and Boilermakers.

The film, commissioned by the Canadian Boilermakers and produced by Wide Awake Films, features Adel Elseri, a 15-year Boilermaker from Local 146 (Edmonton, Alberta). In the film, Elseri interviews his peers, seasoned Boilermakers and contractors, engaging them in honest discussions about the reasons for and ramifications of absenteeism.

“If [people] don’t show up, others have to cover their jobs. We depend on each other. ‘No-shows’ is not just not showing up…it genuinely affects us all,” he says in the video.

Elseri stresses that being a no show might seem like a small way to express frustration with a specific job or situation, but people need to realize “we’re jeopardizing our future, we’re jeopardizing our contracts for the next gig, and we’re jeopardizing our pension” when people don’t show up to work.

Read more about Adel Elseri in “Boilermaker’s energy for life fuels enthusiasm for his craft.”