Gail Leach Carvelli
The interNational Electrical Contractors Association (neca--Bethesda, MD) recently sponsored its 1997 Labor Relations Conference, which focused on improving labor-management cooperation. It also called for electrical contractors to secure the low-voltage cabling market.
"Telecommunications work will be the highest single source of employment in the next decade," said Charles "Bud" Fisher, executive assistant to the international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (ibew--Washington, DC). "If we don`t secure the market now, we`ll lose it and we`ll never get it back."
Fisher`s comments were made during a presentation attended by more than 220 neca contractors, chapter managers, and members of neca chapter labor-management and negotiations committees. The three-day conference was held in New Orleans.
As part of his talk, Fisher referenced the District Sound and Communications Agreement as the tool that neca and the ibew have provided to help secure the low-voltage cabling market. The agreement is an apprenticeship training program designed to create a trained pool of union electrical workers who specialize in the installation of low-voltage technologies.
Fisher also outlined some of the problems that face union electrical contracting today and offered solutions. In particular, he addressed workforce shortages and said that more effort must be made to anticipate the demand for workers. He added that recruitment for the apprenticeship program must be increased with public-relations campaigns that promote a positive union image. And, he said, "We must be willing to recruit qualified candidates from any source."
James E. Rowings, professor-in-charge of the construction engineering program at Iowa State University and co-author of The Electrical Contracting Foundation`s publication, Electrical Contractor`s Guide to Partnership, discussed the concepts of partnership. He explained that these concepts could be applied to the relationship between neca contractors and ibew locals.
"Partnering is an opportunity, not a threat," Rowings said. "Improving labor-management cooperation through partnering increases market opportunities and increases morale, especially when carried down to the shop level. It also improves everyone`s competitiveness, which is necessary for long-term survival."