Welcome to the Frequently Asked Questions page!! If you don't find what you are looking for please e-mail your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. Why would I want to be part of the IBEW in the first place?
SHORT ANSWER: Fair wages, working conditions, benefits, pension and safety.
LONG ANSWER: Money. Let's deal with this one right out of the gates. Union wages are industry leading. Simply put they are higher than wages in the non-union sector. The primary reason companies resist the formation of a union workforce is the additional expense of higher wages. Attached to your wage is an employer paid contribution to your pension starting the very first hour worked. In addition to wages and pension are employer paid benefits for health and welfare, which cover the gamut of expenses for you and your family. Non-union employers may pay as little as they can get away with, they may avoid raises on achievement of apprenticeship milestones and base any raises on an "anniversary of hire date", they may encourage you to "bank your hours" instead offering overtime, very few have employer contributed pensions and those that do are often paltry. The question to ask yourself is "...am I being fairly compensated for the work I do?"
Q. I'm not convinced...
A. In addition to wages, there are numerous reasons why unrepresented electricians would want be part of a Trade Union.
1) Safety is priority #1 on all IBEW jobsites. There is absolutely no pressure to complete unsafe work. Any concerns about Safety are routed through a union representative to management such that a degree of anonymity can be maintained for the worker. There is no fear of being labeled a "troublemaker" by raising job site concerns or singling yourself out.
2) Issue resolution with the support of a Trade Union does not allow management to "walk all over" their employees. This can cover everything from harassment, discrimination, or bullying at work, to resolving unpaid training/orientation/overtime, or even unfair treatment and payroll deductions.
One non-union company in Regina was actually deducting $10.00 from every employee, every pay period, for bottled water and toilet paper in the shop. Not only is this completely silly, it is in contravention of the Saskatchewan Employment Act, yet when the workforce complained to management they were reprimanded.
Having a Shop Steward available to relay any employee concerns to the Union's Business Manager, allows employees the freedom to have a voice. In the event an issue cannot be rectified with agreement from both sides, a grievance procedure finds resolution.
3) There is a defined rule book to follow. The Collective Bargaining Agreement, or CBA, outlines the rules employers and employees must play by, including working conditions, wages, travel pay, living away allowance, overtime pay, harassment and discrimination policies, required tool list, etc. These items and more are clearly defined in the CBA. Legislation and policies are put in place for a reason, and the CBA provides all Union members with the security of knowing 1) what their rights are and 2) if necessary they will have representation when defending their rights.
One non-union contractor completed a shutdown over a weekend and had workers stay late into the night to finish. They were told the work would be paid out at straight time and had accepted. It wasn't until much later that they found out other employees had turned down the weekend work at straight time, and only then, been offered the overtime pay. Some of the employees received overtime, and some did not, working on the same job at the same shutdown. Requests to obtain overtime pay retroactively fell on deaf ears and it was never received. Without a CBA and the support of the Local Union these individuals were treated unfairly by their employer who unfortunately got away with it.
Q. That's all well and good, but isn't it true that after paying Union dues, even with better wages, it turns out I would earn less than my non-union counterpart?
Q. Wait, what....
A. Union dues differ from union to union. IBEW dues are 2% of your gross income. If you earn 2% greater than your non-union peers just on the raw wage you are still coming out ahead. If the open shop wage is $40/hour the break even for IBEW wages is $40.80 (after paying dues you earn the same), anything over and above is surplus.
Now consider that Union dues are tax deductible, so you will see a portion returned to you at tax time. Also, remember that earlier I said this was the raw wage only, and doesn't account for pension and benefits, which increase the difference even more. The last thing to consider is that these dues contribute to your local Union hall, which has the primary function of serving the membership. The Union defends the payment of fair wages and working conditions, including the double-time overtime on weekends and night shift differential of 17%. It's often said after working one solid weekend of overtime "...that weekend paid my dues for the year...the next one will pay for my family vacation..."
Q. Ok, but isn't it true that as a Union member I will either be on the road or out of work?
SHORT ANSWER: NO
LONG ASWER: Nope, especially if you vote to unionize your current place of employment. Nothing will change with the day to day operation of any company which becomes a Union shop. IBEW electricians are not employed by the IBEW, they are employed by the contractor. The IBEW represents the members and enforces the CBA. When your vote to unionize your shop is successful, you become a Union member. Your employment location with your company is not affected by a Union certification. If you happen to find yourself in need of a new job, as a member of the IBEW, it is always YOUR choice whether or not to take a call (or be transferred) for out of town work. There is no penalty for turning down a call. You stay in exactly the same position on the dispatch list. The sad irony is that often times it is the non-union contractor who will issue an ultimatum to either go to a project out of town or be laid off.
Q. So wait a minute, what does it mean to take a call?
A. When a signatory (Union) contractor requires additional manpower, they contact the Union hall and put in a "job call". As a Union member you have the choice to accept or refuse any job offering when it becomes available to you. Remember there is no penalty for turning down a job call. You do not go to the bottom of the list, you stay exactly where you are.
Q. Well than as a new member wouldn't I have the lowest seniority, and all the calls would go more senior members?
A. Not at all. There is NO seniority in the IBEW. The first member out of work is the first to be dispatched to the next available job call. In other words, if all members are working, and you are laid off, you are at the top of the list to be dispatched, regardless of how long you have been a member.
Q. Ah-ha! So how many members are currently out of work waiting to be dispatched?
A. Zero. All active members are working. This is called "full employment". IBEW 2038 has been at full employment for the past 7 years and is steadily growing.
Q. I've heard that Union projects are...not productive, and that there are...inferior workers in the Union, whose jobs are protected because they are members.
A. It's ok. You can tell us how you really feel.
Q. I've heard that Union projects bleed money because Union electricians are stupid and lazy and can sit around all day not getting anything done because the Union protects them.
A. It's ok. I've heard that too. Fortunately for Union members (myself included) it's just not true. There are 2 very important points to consider here.
1) If this were true, one would expect Union contractors to be failing miserably and going bankrupt one after another. This is not the case, as IBEW signatory contractors who compete in the same marketplace as non-union contractors have been around since 1891. That being said, IBEW membership is growing all across Canada. There are now 73,000 IBEW members in Canada, and you could be 73,001.
2) For a member to be successful in his career, his employer must be successful in their business. As members, we know that if our employer is making money, we are making money. Simply put, MEMBERS ARE ACCOUNTABLE TO MEMBERS. If a member is performing poorly, for whatever reason, it could potentially affect future employment for everyone, and members will not stand for that. There is an incredible amount of pride of workmanship held by IBEW members, and this often translates to a healthy competitive climate on the jobsite. After all, would you rather be known for your time spent slacking off in the smoke pit, or your exemplary skills on the tools? It is true that is difficult to be kicked out of Union membership, but it's not difficult to be kicked off a jobsite. It's no different than the non-union sector, if you are chronically absent, late, slacking off, underperforming, etc. your employer is not obligated to keep you around because of IBEW "protection".
The real difference lies in what happens after your employment is terminated. In the non-union sector, an individual who is let go is forced to hit the streets with a resume, and the issues which caused their termination will follow that person to the next job. As a Union member any issue resulting in termination will be addressed by the Business Manager and attempts will be made to rectify them. If it's a lacking skillset, training can be provided to bring that skillset up to par. If there are personal issues causing a distraction at work, Family Services Employee Assistance Programs are available for members at no cost. Check out www.myfseap.com for more information. The point is this; Union members have the support of their Local to help them overcome personal challenges and be dispatched to the next job with issues resolved, and not left to fend for themselves as is the case in the non-union sector.
Q. Well then. I'm sold. How do I sign up.
A. Contact the Membership Development Representative in your jurisdiction and sign a support card today!
IBEW 2038 - Christopher Unser - 306.550.2016. (c) 306.757.0222. (w) email@example.com
IBEW 529 - Shane Madden- 306.314.9031 (c) 306.384.0529 (w) firstname.lastname@example.org