CD conference assesses industry challenges, opportunities

Kyle Evenson, ED-CSO, chairs the annual construction conference March 2-5.

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Despite economic downturn, business managers hear good news

THE WORLD ECONOMY may be in a tailspin, but business managers still heard some good news at the annual Boilermaker Construction Division conference at Marco Island, Fla., March 2-5.

The union added about 1,500 members in 2008, despite plant closings and a slow-down in capital projects. Total construction man-hours worked last year hit 40 million, up nearly 10 percent from 2007. And construction members tied a record for safety on the job, even with the additional man-hours and an influx of new craftsmen.

Kyle Evenson, Executive Director of Construction Sector Operations, chaired the conference, which included updates from the International, reviews of various union and employer initiatives, reports from the national funds office, and guest presentations.

International President Newton B. Jones opened the conference by congratulating local lodge leaders on their achievements throughout 2008. He said electing Barack Obama president was a key accomplishment. “After eight years of fighting an administration that was almost rabidly antiunion, we have finally made a difference,” he said. “So many of you got out there and worked your hearts out. I think we now have a seat at the table for our issues.”

MOST recruiting, QCCUS show success

THE MOST RECRUITING program has registered nearly 6,000 individuals interested in working on Boilermaker construction jobs to its database, reported Gary Evenson, Director of Construction Recruitment Services. He said about 1,650 have been placed on jobs, and local lodges have signed up about 1,350 of those as members (nearly 1,000 of them remained active as of the first of the year).

“That’s [the equivalent of] about three or four good construction lodges,” Evenson said. “Going forward, I see the program growing. It’s only a little over two years old.”

Reporting on the Quality Control Council in the U.S., Gene Forkin, IR-ST, QCCUS, said efforts to organize workers performing nondestructive testing have shown promise, with about 250 new members added. The QCCUS is a coalition of the Boilermakers union and the United Association, and is modeled on the highly successful Quality Control Council of Canada.

Forkin said QCCUS recently negotiated a new national agreement. The council has also hired a Level III technical director with the aim of developing a central certification. “The central certification will give the member the opportunity to own his certification, much like Common Arc,” MOST’s program for welding certification, which provides portability between contractors and reduces the need for repeat testing.

Forkin encouraged business managers to promote the use of QCCUS contractors whenever nondestructive testing work is available. He noted that, in addition to regional contractors, QCCUS now has a signatory contractor that is willing to do NDT work on a national basis.

“We have a huge opportunity in front of us,” he said, noting that most people performing NDT in the United States are nonunion. “We as Boilermakers have represented members who weld on jobs for [many decades]. It’s time we represented the people who test those welds.”

Market share program is “first of its kind”

BEEFING UP MARKET SHARE, making it more efficient for travelers to get work, and optimizing Boilermaker resources were some of the key initiatives discussed at the conference.

Jim Tinney, Assistant Director of Construction Sector Operations — Canada, explained the Canadian Market Share Program developed by the union and Info Resources, a company that tracks heavy industry jobs. The groundbreaking program identifies man-hours worked by each lodge in a given year and compares that number to the total man-hours available for the lodge’s jurisdiction. Thus, if a lodge worked 50,000 man-hours, but 100,000 were available, it would have a 50 percent market share.

The value of the program, said Tinney, is not only does it provide an accurate picture of the available work for Boilermakers — and how much of that work a local lodge is getting — but it also identifies possible targets for organizing.

Info Source’s Lamar Blanton said, “I work with trades across the continent. No one else is doing this. This is the first program of its kind.”

Tinney also gave an update on the Web-based travel card and referral system, another Canadian initiative that is being considered for U.S. lodges. The system allows members to sign up for work via the Internet and maintains profiles of their skills and certifications. Tinney said a new module allows nonmembers to sign up for permit work. “It’s an ideal situation where they come to us and we look at their qualifications. If they turn out to be good hands, we can flag them and bring them into the union.”

An initiative sponsored by MOST — the National Resources Tracking System —continues to progress as well. FirstEnergy’s Larry Wargo, consultant for contractor services, reported that development costs for the Internet-based system are well under budget and that functionality for contractors and owners is now available. The system allows lodges, contractors, and owners to assess man-power availability for upcoming projects.

National funds office introduces new Executive Administrator

THE BOILERMAKERS NATIONAL Funds (BNF) office announced that Rich Calcara has been named the new Executive Administrator. Calcara was a senior partner with the law firm of Blake and Uhlig and has represented the BNF for over 30 years.

“Over the years, benefits have improved and diminished,” said Calcara. “But no retiree has ever missed a [pension] payment. Every benefit has been paid. Every appropriate medical claim has been paid. There’s no doubt that that will continue. The trustees are committed to do what they can to keep the benefits as high as they can.”

Calcara acknowledged that pension fund investments have been substantially reduced because of the economic crisis but said many other defined benefit plans have suffered more severe losses. He said the health and welfare plan is “a bright spot” despite the economy and “is in a pretty solid position.”

Len Beauchamp, BNF Associate Executive Administrator, and Mario Rodriguez, the Chief Investment Officer, detailed the impact of the economic crisis on the various funds and provided an historical perspective of the funds’ performance before the downturn.

Speaker addresses multi-generational work force

PROFESSIONAL SPEAKER AND workplace consultant Bruce Wilkinson addressed the conference on the topic of a multi-generational work force, at the invitation of the National Association of Construction Boilermaker Employers (NACBE). Wilkinson said craftspeople and those who lead them need to recognize differences in individuals, as people are motivated by different things and come from different perspectives.

Wilkinson said baby boomers come from a “git ‘er done” generation that tends to do things because they are told to do them. Generation X (those 29-42 years old) and Generation Y (16-29) have much different life experiences. It’s not enough to give Generation Y workers instructions, he said. They want to know why something needs to be done a certain way.

Wilkinson called upon all Boilermakers, contractors, and owners to work together and to lead by inspiring and motivating the work force — not only to achieve project goals, but also to ensure safety. He said just as soldiers in combat units look out for each other’s safety, so, too, should craftspeople. “It takes skilled men and women to work around danger,” he noted. “They’ve got to have their heads on straight. They’ve got to respect each other. What happens if we don’t control that danger, or if we come to the job and our heads are not on straight, is we lose control. Then danger will always get you.”

Intl. reps examine jurisdictional issues

LED BY DALE “Skipper” Branscum, Director of Construction Division Services, a panel of International reps presented case studies of jurisdictional disputes and explored the challenges of jurisdictional claims as new technology unfolds.

Taking part in the presentation were IRs Dennis King, Steve Speed, Clay Herford, Kent Oliver, Tony Palmisano, Jim Cooksey, Marty Stanton, and John Fultz. They discussed such project elements as SCRs; seal-air ducts; breeching and duct support; water separator tanks and piping; and limestone silos. They also examined the new generations of nuclear power plants that will be built in North America as well as fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) ductwork and chimney flues. FRP technology is showing up in areas such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) test facilities, and it could see expanded use should CCS go into widespread commercial development.

Meeting topics also included union finances, political and legislative issues, consolidation of National Transient Lodge members into the construction lodges, safety and health, SERT (Special Emergency Response Team) services, insurance for labor leaders, opportunities in biofuel technology, a new hunting and fishing club for union members and their families, and the officers and employees pension plan.

The 2010 conference is scheduled for February 28 – March 5.