January is the month of new-year resolutions, and this month, the United Association has resolved itself to doing the best job possible - and making it formal policy - by committing to its new UA Standard for Excellence.
“We are putting down in writing our pledge to maintain the highest standards of excellence in all that we do - training, maintaining our skills, working safely, being more productive, improving workplace attitudes, and all other elements that will set us apart from the rest of the pack,” wrote UA General President William P. Hite in the UA Journal in November.
According to the organization, the UA Standard for Excellence is a joint labor-management pledge to uphold the highest industry standard in the workplace, with the ultimate goal of ensuring complete customer satisfaction.
Hite insists that these are not just “words on paper” or hung up on a wall. “These are principles we believe in,” Hite wrote.
A main motivation behind making the standard formal policy has been the drive to increase market share for union workers, especially in the Gulf Coast area.
“It’s the union’s job to make sure we keep our contractors competitive,” Hite told his members. “It’s our responsibility to work with our contractors to make the union the ‘go-to guys.’”
According to Hite, increasing the UA’s market share means better wages and benefits, and serves in securing the UA’s position well into the future.
The standard is supported by two other UA initiatives: The Strategic Planning Committee is tasked with expanding market share, while the Mechanical Allied Crafts Council (MAC) serves to eliminate jurisdictional disputes and increase job opportunities.
Beginnings: After meeting with hundreds of UA members, contractors, owners and clients across the United States and Canada, it was clear that UA members received high marks for craftsmanship and skilled manpower.
However, there is “always room for improvement,” Hite said, and put it very simply to his members when he listed some of UA employers’ and customers’ concerns:
- low productivity
- worker appearance on the jobsite
- poor attitudes and inadequate safety practices
- unqualified foremen
- concerns about illicit drug and alcohol abuse.
Hite admitted the concerns sounded “ominous,” but said these concerns are an easy fix.
The standard lists the responsibilities for each tier of business, from members to locals to management and upward. Responsibilities such as: zero tolerance for substance abuse; intolerance to absenteeism or tardiness; using and promoting local union training and certification for lifelong learning; proper problem resolution procedures; ownership of mistakes created by management decisions; treating all employees in a respectful and dignified manner; and more.
Some points are very general guidelines, while others are more specific (personal cell phones will not be used during the workday; offensive words and symbols on clothing are not acceptable).
Assisting with the implementation of the standard are employer groups such as MCAA/MSCA, PCA, UAC and others. Their roles lay with encouraging their signatory contractors to manage their jobs effectively. Other responsibilities include: providing worker recognition for a job well done; encouraging, but if necessary, being fair and consistent with discipline; and promoting and supporting continued education.
“Our members are quite pleased with the new standard,” said John McNerney, executive director, government and labor relations, MCAA. “It’s also a credit to the new administration. To come up with this early in its tenure is a very positive step.” He told us MCAA will do its best to lend a hand in implementation for its members, and stands to work with the UA.
McNerney believes it’s hard to disagree with the direction the standardis taking, and noted that the leadership and culture changes the formal policy will make can serve to strengthen market performance.
“Jobsite performance is a much more crucial part of being competitive than the UA has publicly recognized previously,” McNerney said. “A high-performing workforce is a big benefit in this market where opportunities remain tight. Implementing the standard bodes well for the future.”
“The UA Standard for Excellence is a new way of doing business,” said Steve Kelly, assistant general president of the UA. “[It is] a guide for all parties - labor, management and owners - to use as a means of smoothing job completion.”