Volume 21 | Issue 2 | February 2021
The new Operator Care program was rolled out by CRC upon 594’s return to the plant. All workers welcome any positive changes that increase reliability, and therefore safe operation of equipment under our control because workers do care about their equipment. Process really is the first line of defence in detecting equipment integrity issues and coordinating with various maintenance groups to ensure all necessary repairs are made. 

Unfortunately, as part of this program, process members are being asked to perform job duties that are typically performed by other 594 members. Article 2 states: “No work customarily performed by an employee covered by this Agreement shall be performed by another employee of the Co-operative or by a contractor…”. Is there potential for operators to support maintenance efforts? Possibly, but the duties that CRC wants Process to take on now should be discussed with the union first. CRC, the union and its employees are trying to get back to being one team, because of this, CRC needs to make room for our input and follow the CBA. How can CRC expect buy-in to the Operator Care Program when it simply forces a new program on workers without consultation?

There are some non-emergent tasks that some operators are being asked to do that are not appropriate. There are plenty of journeyman and apprentice employees at CRC that are better skilled and experienced to handle these tasks. The Maintenance Department has established planners that develop maintenance plans and order parts based on their assessment of the job to ensure proper process and metal compatibility and compliance with procedures. It's been said, a planned job is a safe job, but Operator Care tasks are not being planned so are they safe? As well, our maintenance department has access to all the proper tools, equipment and most importantly the maintenance workers have decades of trade experience and job-specific training.

From OHS regulations:

  • 19 (4) An employer shall ensure that no worker is permitted to perform work unless the worker:
  • (a) has been trained, and has sufficient experience, to perform the work safely and in compliance with the Act and the regulations; or
  • (b) is under close and competent supervision.
  • 2 (l) “competent” means possessing knowledge, experience and training to perform a specific duty;
  •  (m) “competent worker”, with respect to a particular task or duty, includes a worker who is being  trained to perform that task or carry out that duty and who is under close and competent supervision during that training;

In the past operators were more hands-on, especially when assisting with turnarounds. We got to see and handle the equipment we were monitoring. I had the advantage of hands-on training when I was first hired on and can say it helped operators understand how our equipment functioned. Then in 2015, that all changed. CRC decided that operators didn’t have the proper training to perform maintenance duties during turnaround and barred all employees outside of the maintenance department from participating in turnaround maintenance activities. How then in 2020, did all operators suddenly become qualified to do maintenance work again?

With the Minimum Staffing Policy CRC has implemented, we are running short-staffed on many shifts, not just one or two a month, like in previous years. Over the past couple of weeks alone, we have run short on close to a third of the shifts in my department. Some sections are even running 2 operators short on shifts. When we are covering the duties of other operators that should be on shift with us, when is there time to perform maintenance duties?

There is also confusion over the application of the Operator Care Program. Roll-out was inconsistent between sections and even between shifts. Communication to workers regarding the scope of work or how that relates to an operator's position guide is scarce. Some sections are being asked to start with just the greasing program; while other areas have moved on to HVAC filter change out and removing insulation. Even still, other sections' management personnel interpret other maintenance tasks that operators could be asked to perform as steam trap repair and replacement, on the run oil changes, small-bore piping projects, API seal top-ups and removing and installing insulation. These are duties that have been customarily performed by our maintenance department members. Process is there to support the maintenance department, not replace it.

I find myself wondering whether any of these duties operators are being asked to perform even need to be done on a fast-tracked timeline? If maintenance work needs to be completed on nights, then the appropriate trades should be called out to perform that work. Otherwise, those tasks can wait to be planned on days. With 7-day maintenance coverage, many urgent jobs can be written up and finished on the same day, especially single-trade jobs. If in fact these jobs can't wait to be planned, process operators need to write them up as urgent. If a job is not an emergency, then the efficiencies that the CRC planning department realized during the lockout should be utilized, especially for single-trade tasks… unless the Operator Care Program is just a way for CRC to circumvent its own planning department. 

Some single-trade, planned maintenance jobs pass through more than 10 different hands before finally being assigned to the employee that will make the repair. What I don’t understand is how we can go from 10 different people needing to sign off their part of a planned task, to none? Streamlining maintenance planning from Operator to Tradesperson, on single-trade jobs, is where we should be looking to help make equipment care more efficient, not just having operators do tradespeople’s jobs. There used to be trust in the abilities of our highly trained maintenance staff to perform jobs safely without the need for a planner. Streamlining used to be easier. CRC utilized its most highly qualified and experienced tradespeople as Leadhands. Leadhands scoped out jobs and kept the work moving. Unfortunately, this is a resource CRC has chosen to discontinue using. 

Things for operators to consider, when asked to do a maintenance duty that they don’t normally perform:
  1.   Is this task an emergency?
  2.   Is it safe for you to perform this maintenance task?
  3. Is there time to perform this maintenance task? Are there process duties will I not have time to do because I am doing maintenance work? Is this acceptable?
  4. Is the shift running short? Do I have to cover the duties of other operators?
  5. Do I have the proper training to perform this task? Are there specific qualifications or certifications needed to do this task safely?
  6. Does my supervisor have the proper training to coach me to do this task?
  7.  Is my supervisor willing to take full responsibility for any incidents, safety or process, that result from performing these maintenance duties that are outside my normal duties?
  8.  If something goes wrong, is my supervisor going to follow CRC’s incident reporting policy?
  9. Am I provided with all the necessary tools?
  10.  Am I provided with all necessary parts and a maintenance plan, as a maintenance worker would be?

Operators have a hard time performing duties commanded by their supervisor when they know it’s cross-crafting. Some supervisors understand that unease, while other supervisors understand but don’t care and really turn up the pressure. As hard as it is in the moment, the union’s stance is work now, grieve later. Operators need to remember to ask all the necessary questions to determine if they should perform this work, just like operators do when performing any of their job duties. Job duties and scope are determined by the company, unless determined by the contract or past practice.  Infringement on the contract or past practice is not resolved quickly, so please be patient while we navigate our way forward on this new CRC program. 

In Solidarity,

Carla McCrie
Board Operator, 2nd Class, Section 6
to the following 594 members:
No Retirements for February 2021.
Thank you for your donations and continued support. We have many members that have received a temporary recall. However, we still have members off. Let's keep the donations going to support those not back and for those that may need assistance in the future.
If you are able, please consider donating $20 per pay-cheque via e-transfer to 594passthehat@protonmail.com.

In Solidarity,
Chris Petersen and Chad Borys
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Employee & Family Assistance Program
Mental Health can affect anyone at any point in their life. Did you know that one in three workplace disability claims are mental health related? Many supervisors and Union Executive have completed the Mental Health First Aid training. Please, if you are struggling, contact EFAP or reach out to a trusted confident.

EFAP is through Homewood Health and is available 24/7/365. Call 1-800-663-1142