By Leslie Dyson
Company mergers and acquisitions can look like Godzilla vs. MUTOs, bringing destruction and chaos in the form of massive job losses and family and community hardships.
But a strong union, such as Teamsters Local 213, and cooperative attitudes on both sides can make the process easier and beneficial to most.
Shop steward and gasfitter/driver Steve Goodman started at Superior Propane in the Lower Mainland 36 years ago, around the time that it was being organized by the Teamsters Local 213. “It was a smooth transition (at that time),” he said. “The company couldn’t get on industrial sites. The guys had to be certified. They’d ask for your union card when you showed up.”
Goodman said he thinks conditions for unions will improve. “Well sure. You’re guaranteed 40 hours a week with benefits so you can have some stability in your life.
“Right now, people (without unions) are working split shifts and 32 hours a week. And some people have to have two jobs and they still can’t support their families.
“When I started work here I was the youngest guy by 15 years. Nobody left until they retired.” Even now, the average age of the company’s seven Lower Mainland gasfitters is 57. Goodman attributes some of the success of his 30-year marriage to a good union job and a steady career.
“There’s always been slow growth” in the company, Goodman added. Even with the recession of 2008, there were no layoffs. But there’s been significant growth with the acquisition of Canwest Propane in 2017.
Glen Purgavie, a gasfitter/driver with 35 years experience in the industry, used to work for Canwest and is a one-year member of Local 213.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I worked non-union my whole life,” he said. The acquisition brought considerable uncertainty for the workers from Canwest, “like how would you be treated because you were going into other people’s territory,” he said. “But it’s been great and better than I was expecting. Everyone has really welcomed me, and others (from Canwest) seem to feel the same way.
“The biggest difference is the teamwork and camaraderie. In the non-union environment, the guys were just employees and there was more of a revolving door. There was a long trend of always training.
“Now, it’s a lot nicer, going into a union with a collective agreement,” Purgavie said. “Things are cut and dry with what we do and what we don’t do. We don’t have the grey areas. The management here is great because they respect that. They’re on-side and it’s very amicable.”
(Read more in the Summer 2019 edition of Today’s Teamsters)