I was considering some of the things that happened over the last year and thought I would compile them here.
In every negotiation there are ups and downs. We started off the year in an accelerated fashion going about six weeks making a great deal of progress until we ultimately we hit a road bump in February while waiting for information requests from the Company. A huge dynamic during this period was the rumor of a possible merger with US Airways. Had that happened this review would be a dismal one. Negotiations continued after that mostly through subcommittees until April when a TA was reached on Article 16 Transportation. That was the last TA reached prior to the announcement of the merger with CAL. There was a collective sigh of relief on the committee when CAL was announced as the merger partner. Throughout the rest of the spring and summer negotiations continued and we were able to TA eight articles including two new ones, Field Trips and Training. Then as readers of the blog are aware, we hit another slightly rough patch around the end of September which continued into December. In December after the summit was held things turned around in a positive fashion. As I write this we are slated to meet again in Chicago on the last week of January. I'm hopeful given the tone of the last session that we will continue to make progress and finalize the agreement sometime in 2011.
It is impossible to police an agreement without a working grievance process. As the saying goes "Justice delayed is justice denied". The IBT inherited hundreds of third steps from both previous Unions dating back to 1998. These grievances were being heard at a rate of between 2 and 4 every month. At the end of 2009 the parties agreed to a new third step process that overhauled our decades old system. The first session of third steps was held in December of 2009 and continued for the most part each month throughout 2010. We started the year with those hundreds of grievances in the third step and through hard work by both sides we now have around seventy five grievances system wide. I say about because there is resolution on some but they have not yet been finalized and removed from the docket. One case that sticks out in my mind was a discharge that took six weeks from IRH to resolution at the third step. Under the old system that would have been almost impossible. To be fair the process is not perfect and we continue to iron out wrinkles as we go, but it is a much better system than we previously utilized.
A centralized management system was instituted for the auto shops across the system. The move away from the respective station managers was a positive for the group. Station managers tend to think of the operation without consideration of the maintenance required to accomplish station tasks. In fact when I approached the local manager here two years ago regarding insourcing she told me if she made a nickel in profit from the GQ shop she would spend it on CSR's and Ramp personnel as that is what the customer wants. It will be interesting moving forward to see which method of oversight will be used for the GQ group as CAL does it differently.
In July for everyone in United Services a clean slate was granted for dependability. Although much effort has been made the VP of North America continues to be a hold out on this issue. This was a huge issue, and still is for our Brothers and Sisters in GQ/PV. At the point of the clean slate there were many grievances waiting to be heard regarding dependability. It should be noted that the clean slate was granted without the imposition of a point system such as the Ramp and CSR's agreed to. There are better ways to manage dependability including but not limited to, day and shift swaps, more lenient vacation usage, and some sort of reward system for not using this valuable insurance program. It is my hope that the Company will move in this direction across the departments to achieve both the cost savings they need as well as a positive work experience for us by not having to constantly answer for our absences.
Looking forward, for the first time in a while I'm truly hopeful. We have many new managers at the top level and they seem to have a positive approach towards the employees. I'm not so naïve as to say everything will be alright and we can ignore what's happening around us, but its nice coming to work feeling that there is positive change in the air. We also have a union that is responsive to our needs, and this is borne out by the above paragraphs as they were involved with each mentioned item. Most of the issues above took decades to get out of whack and will take some time to fix completely, but the IBT took these issues head on and proposed ideas that would work both for the Membership as well as the Company. We're going to need that dedication and responsiveness in 2011 as we finalize our agreement and then merge the seniority lists and amalgamate the two separate agreements into one agreement that we can all live with.
I would like to wish each of you a very prosperous and Happy New Year.