Local R55 Executive Meets with the TWU Affiliation Committee

On January 21, 2013, members of the Local R55 executive met with TWU President George Doubt and Vice-President Betty Carrasco. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the proposed TWU merger with the United Steelworkers.  Below you will find our notes from that meeting.

Note: Retirees do not get a vote at any stage of the merger process.

The merger process is a three-step process:

  1. Step 1 asks the membership to authorize the TWU National Executive Council to enter into merger negotiations with the USW.
  2. If step 1 receives a 662/3% positive vote, the TWU and the USW will enter into step 2 – merger negotiations.
  3. If step 2 results in a tentative merger agreement, the process would move to step 3 – the decision phase. The membership will be asked to vote on the agreement and, if this results in a 662/3% positive vote, the merger would be authorized. The merger would take place based on the terms of the merger agreement.

Brother Doubt stated that the USW is open to negotiating items from the TWU Local R55.

The USW has national locals across the Canadian Districts.

The primary concern for retirees in BC and for many active BC TWU members is the security of their pension plan. Pension plans like the TWPP, are independent trusts, which are established and protected by trust agreements for the sole benefit of the plan members.

Prior to the meeting, the Local had forwarded several questions that encapsulated many of the issues and concerns we had heard from our retired members. The following are the question put to the Affiliation Committee and the Committee’s responses.

  1. Will the Trustees of the TWPP continue to be elected by the members of the TWPP?
  • If YES, what will the process be, and who will be able to vote?
  • If NO, how will the Trustees be selected?

There are three things the TWU does that affect the Telecommunication Workers Pension Plan (TWPP):

      • bargains contributions to the pension plan;
      • appoints four trustees to the board of trustees;
      • approves changes to the trust documents

Four of the eight TWPP trustees are appointed by the TWU. The TWU Constitution directs that two of the four TWU appointed trustees shall be the TWU president and the Secretary-Treasurer.

The remaining two trustees are elected at the TWU national convention from members of the Plan. The only people eligible to vote in these elections are delegates who represent members of the TWPP.

All trustees must be members of the TWPP.

During the merger negotiations, it is a priority that the union trustees continue to be elected from the members of the TWPP, by members of the TWPP. It is not clear yet how the vote will take place. It may be at a Canadian conference, at a district conference, or at some other conference. Brother Doubt would like input about how this is set in the new structure (who runs for these positions, how and where they are elected, etc.).­­­­­­­­­­­

Note: It is the position of Local R55 that any member of the TWPP in good standing with the TWU is eligible to run for election as a pension trustee. Further, the Local believes that the most democratic way of electing pension trustees would by referendum vote of the members of the TWPP who are also members in good standing of the TWU or who retired as members in good standing. This is the principle known as one member, one vote.

  1. Is the Affiliation Committee committed to maintaining the democratic process in the hands of TWPP members? That is, is the successor union prepared to facilitate and fund the election of the TWU appointed TWPP Trustees?

Yes and the process will be negotiated during the merger/affiliation process Elections could possibly be set at the USW Canadian Conference, district, or other conference.  The affiliation Committee is open to suggestions on the process.

  1. Since collective bargaining is one of the main arena’s where the outcome may affect the TWPP, how would the bargaining team be constituted following a merger and how will the bargaining package be developed?

Leo Gerard, USW International President (and a Canadian steelworker), attended a recent TWU Executive Council meeting. When a similar question was put to him, he stated that collective bargaining would remain in the hands of the Bargaining Unit. While the USW Constitution says that the International President authorizes strike action, he has no involvement in local bargaining or decision making unless requested by the local.

  1. The Executive of Local R55 believes that it has a role to play should the membership give the Executive Council approval to begin merger talks. Just as the Affiliation Committee will be consulting with committees, trustees, and others throughout the process, we ask that they also consult with retirees through Local R55.

Brother Doubt stated that he intends to consult with the Local. How this will happen is to be discussed.

  1. Since the Board of Directors of Concert Properties lists two directors from the TWU, how would these directors be selected should the TWU merge with the USW?

All directors on the Board of Concert Properties are elected at the Concert Properties annual general meeting. The TWPP has four directors on the Board of Concert Properties. These four directors are nominated by the TWPP and include two from the company and two from the Union. There will be no change in this process as a result of the merger referendum.

  1. Have the Company appointed TWPP Trustees expressed an opinion about the proposed merger? Have they expressed any opinions that there may need to be amendments to the Plan Documents as a result of the merger?

Following the December 2012 Trustee Meeting, Brother Doubt, as TWU President, informed the trustees that a merger was in progress. He went on to say that, in his opinion, there was no need for the Trustees to take any action. All the trustees agreed. They also agreed that the merger was none of the Board’s business.

  1. Does the USW constitution allow for retiree locals similar to the way we have constituted retiree local(s) in the TWU? What role would Local R55 play in a newly merged union? That is:
  • Will Local R55 exist?
  • Will the Local continue to send delegates to a convention?
  • Will the delegates enjoy the same speaking and voting privileges they currently have?

Yes, R55 will still exist but may be negotiated with a different name. For example, it may be called “unit” instead of “local” but the structure would be the same.

Convention status for R55 will be decided during the merger talks. The desire is to keep as much of the current privileges as possible.