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A view from a new BCMEA Labour Relations Manager...

By BCShippingNews 16 February 2015
Angela L. Christensen joins BCMEA

Often, as I drove along the North Shore or took the Seabus downtown, I would see places like Neptune Terminals or Kinder Morgan, or observe the cranes on the waterfront. While I knew they were there, I never gave much thought to their operation or how their existence actually affected me – until now.

I started at the BCMEA on January 5, 2015. I spent the last 15 years at a busy, unionized organization.

Ten of those years were spent working in Labour Relations covering a varied portfolio that including grievance handling, collective bargaining, arbitrations, and investigations. The work I was best known was investigations. As my Director at the time said to me, it is certainly one thing I will go down in the company history books for. With a workforce of roughly 5000, there was no shortage of investigations. Being inquisitive by nature, this was an area in which I excelled.

One of the most memorable investigations I led took 18 months and resulted in a further 6 months of arbitration. It required patience, diplomacy, collaboration across multiple disciplines and lines of business, and culminated with me giving a presentation to the RCMP on what we believed to be criminal activity. I was very fortunate to have had that experience. It’s not every day that such a complex and serious investigation crosses your desk. I was very proud of the work we did, the results we got, and everyone I had the opportunity to work with.

I thought these experiences would mean I was completely prepared for the BCMEA, and then I went to Dispatch. The dispatch hall is a fascinating and dynamic work environment. It’s interesting how the process works, especially how fast-paced it gets when the horn goes off and there are several hundred Longshore men and women either in the hall waiting to be called, with the Dispatchers scurrying up and down the hallway pulling plates to schedule jobs and problem-solving on the fly. It’s impressive.

I am proud to say that after my third visit, I am able to rattle off most of the acronyms on each of the boards and have learned that “N,” not “W,” means “Warehouse”. Go figure. That’s always the hardest part of a new job –trying to figure out the terminology, acronyms, processes, rules and the rules for the rules. Of course, being an inquisitive person, I have a lot of questions about all these things, especially when it comes to asking “why do we do this?”

Starting a new job is an extremely humbling experience for anyone. I’m in awe of the mechanics of this organization and everything that goes into making the waterfront tick. I’ve only just scratched the surface. I equate it to reading the first couple of pages of a book: while the plot isn’t clear you immediately know it’s going to be a good book. I like those books.

As I spend more days in the organization reading arbitration awards, the collective agreement, or meeting with people to figure things out, I found that one of the best ways to start fitting things together are the site tours, as it gives a new employee an opportunity to see our member organizations in full operation mode and, gave the chance to meet the people I will be working with and supporting in my new role. The more I listen and talk with the managers be they within the BCMEA like Ian at Dispatch, my colleagues in LR, or the folks in Training; some of the people I have met at the various member organizations; or the Union contacts, the more it becomes abundantly clear that I have hit the big time - there is a palpable sense that what we do matters, and that and what goes on here impacts everyone in the broader community.

I am now embarking on my 6th week and so far so good. I’m looking forward to building new relationships within this industry and helping the BCMEA move forward in whatever capacity I can in my role as a Labour Relations Manager. Thanks to all who have made me feel welcome.

I wanted to add something. So far, one of my most memorable moments here at the BCMEA has to be going up a crane – it’s pretty cool stuff. I will admit that I am a little afraid of heights and tried not to look down too much. Our tour guide from GCT Deltaport tried to tell me I was perfectly safe. While I believed him, I still maneuvered carefully, skirting the inside walkway and looking straight ahead as much as possible. Anyway, I can now say that I have been up a crane, though as I was reminded by  BA Steve Ross today, I really need to get up inside an operating crane. He’s thrown down the gauntlet, so I suspect I will be going up again soon. I don’t walk away easily from a challenge. Thanks for that, Steve.

 

Angela L. Christensen
Manager, Labour Relations
BC Maritime Employers Association