Staffing changes are always difficult. It means that years of hard-won experience and wisdom leave the organization and new staff come in without that expertise. Luckily, for IAM District 250, the two staff leaving (one through retirement and the other through career change) have gladly shared their knowledge with the newcomers.
One of those newcomers is Jay Garneau. He is one of two new Business Representatives (BRs) with the District.
Jay has been a member of IAM Local 99 692 for 15 years as a Red Seal Heavy-Duty Mechanic. For the first 8 years, he worked as a Field Mechanic in a variety of environments and worksites including forestry, mining at the Ekati Diamond Mine near the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories and in Prince George, BC. (Tumbler Ridge Coal Mines, oilsands in Alberta, Mt Milligan Mine, Mt. Polley Mine, Huckleberry Mine, Gibralter Mine, Endako Mine. All the work around Prince George, BC was forestry, construction and mining near where he lives and works).
“I’ve been involved in the union since day 1 and heavily involved for last 6 years,” he says. “After working as a Field Mechanic for the first 8 years, we had our first child and I decided it would be best to work at the shop to help raise our child. As a result, six years ago, I got more involved in IAM Local 692, because Chris MacDonald, the outgoing Business Representative, was looking for a mechanic who had knowledge of both field and the shop to be on the Bargaining Committee.”
Jay has also served his local in many other capacities over the years: Shop Steward, Chief Shop Steward, Delegate, Bargaining Committee member, and others.
Value of the union
“Especially now, we need a union. Companies are trying to cut corners at the expense of the workers. A lot of members don’t understand their own rights, so education is the first priority.
People don’t stand up for themselves because they simply don’t know their rights. They believed that trusting the employer was going to take care of them. They were wrong. The union takes care of us and we should always be prepared to defend our members’ rights,” he added.
On the job since 01 February, 2021, Jay worked with Chris MacDonald over the last 6 years and spent a lot of time driving in northern BC. Lots of travel time and hotel time contributed to a vast amount of knowledge being transferred. “I learned a ton of stuff from Chris,” he said.
On asked why he felt he could do the job, he answered that he had a good knowledge of the industry (he was previously a Forest Resource Technologist before becoming a Red Seal Heavy Duty Mechanic) and already knew the worksites, locales and work environment. He also has worked with many of the members.
Jay has a busy year ahead with 6 of 11 contracts to negotiate in the next twelve months. It’s going to be busy but he is secure in the knowledge that the other BRs will pitch in and help.
“It’s a big responsibility to represent members and negotiate contracts. I loved being a Heavy-Duty Mechanic, but I also want to help the members get better contracts and better working and living conditions. Solving problems brings a special feeling of accomplishment.”
The varieties of experience Jay has undergone has surely prepared him for all the battles ahead. We wish Jay all the best.