To be compelled to work 365 days in the year without any rest is a hard task for a laborer. The Trimmers of the city of Chicago have no rest. They work on Sundays and holidays alike, and receive no more pay for work done on Sunday than for work done on any other day. Whenever we get a vacation, we must pay for it . . .
Whenever we lose a day to sickness, we are not paid for that day . . .
Should one of us get hurt, or taken with severe illness, we would not be able to pay for medical care for more than a few weeks before we would become wards of the hospital or objects of charity. We cannot get insured and properly prepared for the future on so little a salary...
Public opinion is with us. No citizen . . .
who ever saw a trimmer freeze to the iron lamp post when it was 20 below zero, or carried to the hospital when laid low by a shock, or trudging through the rain like a drowned rat, or swept from his feet by a blinding, cutting snowstorm, or racking with pains of rheumatism contracted on duty, would ever object to the arc-light trimmers getting a raise in pay.
Local 1620 was certified to represent all the utility workers in August 1949. Since that time the Union has endeavoured to mobilize all utility workers in the province. Its greatest success has been in the utility industry, where it represents both the craft and clerical members of Newfoundland Power, who enjoy adequate compensation, a defined benefit pension plan and health benefits. They are paid double time after forty hours and they enjoy safe, clean and reasonable working conditions.
IBEW Local 1620 also represents workers in the Construction Industry. Our construction membership enjoys an adequate wage package, a fully employer-funded health, welfare and pension package. The employer pays our members 13% vacation pay in lieu of annual vacation.
Local 1620 received its charter August 15, 1949. The first official meeting of the Local took place just over a week later on August 24th. This historic meeting was attended by Cyril Strong (NFL), Borden Cochrane (IBEW) and M. Ebbs (a local branch president of the IBEW). After administering the membership pledge, Mr. Cochrane swore in the first Executive. They were:
Richard Murphy, President
Frank French, Vice President
Phil Price, Recording Secretary
Frank Burley, Treasurer
W. Taylor, Financial Secretary
You and your co-workers have the right to elect the officers of your local Union, attend local Union meetings where the members set policy for their officers to carry out and vote on contracts that your representatives negotiate. Your local Union has the main responsibility for enforcing your rights under the Union contract.
- Attend meetings regularly, be an active participant and encourage your co-workers to do the same.
- Participate in local Union activities.
- Vote in local Union elections.
- Assist with social get-togethers.
- Serve on committees.
- Take part in demonstrations and rallies.
Keep informed. Find out from your steward about Union activities. Read your local Union newsletter and the IBEW Journal.
On January 24, 1950, Richard Murphy gave a full report on negotiations held the day before. It was felt that the latest proposals were fair and beneficial to the Union and with a few modifications, could be acceptable to the body. The meeting was adjourned and reconvened on January 27th.
A few hours prior to the second meeting, Mr. Murphy met with the negotiating committee and placed a new wage offer on the table. After further discussion the matter was put to a vote that resulted in a final tally of 20-17 in favour of the one-year agreement. The monetary and other gains made during discussions are not recorded but this was Local 1620's first collective agreement!
The ratification of that first collective agreement was important in many ways. In addition to the benefits received by the membership, the agreement demonstrated that the company and its management finally recognized the right of the Union to exist as a partner in labour relations.
February 7 - Motion accepted to hold election of officers every two years.
August 31 - Balance of $66.43 and net assets of $145.72. Seven new members were given the membership pledge: D. Harding, R. Banfield, E. Pynn, A. Bulger, A. Chafe, M. Rose and E. Fewer.
October 3 - Membership presented with the financial statement for year-end.
November 17 - R. Murphy informed the membership that it was the intention of the local to apply to the provincial government for Union certification. It was moved and seconded that the secretary serve notice on the company that the Union wished to open negotiations on a new contract.
February 1 - Newfoundland Light and Power gains control of Bay of Islands Light and Power, resulting in the extension of the jurisdiction of Local 1620.
March 22 - Local 1620 received certification under the Newfoundland Labour Relations Act.
March 27 - New contract accepted by unanimous vote.
November 5 - Motion to serve notice on the company that the Union wished to begin negations on a new agreement. Mention was made concerning the wage demands of six members from Corner Brook (former Bay of Islands employees). This is the first occasion that members from Corner Brook were named in the minutes.
December 2 - Apprentices, helpers and groundsmen were officially given voice and vote at Union meetings, as long as they were members in good standing.
February 3 - A new agreement was signed. Linemen had hours reduced from 48 to 44 hours per week for the same pay; monthly employees received eight per cent per month, while operators and the meter department received $20 per month. The operators also received three weeks holidays, an increase from two weeks per year to compensate for the lack of statutory holidays.
June 25 - Election of officers: R. Murphy, President; F. French, vice President; S. Stuckless, Financial Secretary; F. Noseworthy, Treasurer; and E. Gardner, Recording Secretary. Grievance Committee: Brothers Sparkes, Doyle and Nelson. Negotiating committee: Brothers Murphy, French, Sparkes and Chafe.
February 8 - Moved and seconded that junior employees be granted the privilege of approaching their foreman or senior operator with regard to future advancement and if not given assurances to carry on to supervisors or operating superintendent, then to the general manager and finally the Union.
May 4 - Signed a new agreement for six per cent as accepted by majority vote.
October 5 - Motion accepted to have meter readers in the Union. Also looking for 10 per cent increase in new agreement and a five-day week for the meter department.
March- Company asking for a two-year agreement. This was turned down by the membership 9-2.
Union Membership & The Construction Trades - In addition to the membership at Newfoundland Power, IBEW Local 1620 represents all other Unionized workers in the line construction industry in the province. These members would normally perform work for Unionized contractors doing business with either Newfoundland Power or Newfoundland Hydro. During the early 1970s this group, combined with Newfoundland Power employees, pushed the membership in the local to over 1000 members. Tough economic times, non-Union contractors and staff reductions at Newfoundland Power have seen our membership drop to about 500 members.
The advantages of Union membership must be demonstrated to all employees in our industry. It is through a common front that the standard of living for everyone will increase. It is hoped that through education and organization these numbers will once again approach the glory days of the 1970s.