Thursday, February 26, 2009

Energy Minister Jack Keir praises the IBEW at a major national meeting.

Today I was attending the annual meeting of the Canadian Nuclear Association. It's a pretty big deal, with well over 800 delegates from all aspects of the nuclear industry, not only from Canada but from around the world.

NB Energy Minister Jack Keir was one of the featured speakers, and I was very interested in what he had to say. There's a lot going on in the New Brunswick energy sector and he is the key decision maker, with a tremendous influence over our workplaces, so it's a good idea to know what he's saying!

In my experience Jack has always been a strong advocate of the IBEW and NB Power, going right back to the first time I met him, at the launch of the International Powerline Project. He has agreat understanding of the energy sector, and the role we play in it.

In his presentation today, he started out by describing his vision of New Brunswick as a world class Energy Hub, suppling all of the north eastern section of North America, and he went on to describe some of the major projects that are going on, or are planned. Not bad stuff, but a fairly standard speech for a political leader.

But then he switched focus to the Point Lepreau project, and specifically some of the challanges we have been facing with the schedule. He did stress how important it was to do a good job on this project, but he made a major point of praising the IBEW workers at Point Lepreau for their committment, and he also praised the Building Trades unions who are helping us. He explained to the 800 delegates that the delays have been caused in a large part due to the complexity of the work, some of it being done for the first time, and not because of any productivity or labour issues with the workers. He then made a point of recognizing that I was in the room, attending these meetings, and said that he knew that "the IBEW is 100% committed to the success of the project."

He then went further, saying "The IBEW workers at Point Lepreau are doing a great job, with safety as the top priority. In fact they recently surpassed 2.5 million hours worked without a lost time accident. Once again, I want to thank IBEW Businss Manager Ross Galbraith and NB Power's Vice President of nuclear, Gaetan Thomas for their committment to this project."

Later on he once again praised everyone working at NB Power while responding to a question asked about the business model for a potential second unit at Point Lepreau. He explained that the current plan is for the private sector to build and own it, with NB Power and its employees running it. He made a point of saying he was proud of our track record in nuclear, and that he considered us as one of the best nuclear companys in the world and "why wouldn't you want the best in the world to run it?"

It was really gratifying, and much appreciated, to see such strong statements from our Energy Minister -- after all, he wasn't playing to a local crowd of voters, he was in front of a bunch of strangers, and his obvious pride in New Brunswick, our capabilities, and most all, the professionalism of the IBEW, came through loud and clear.

One thing he also highlighted though, was how important this project is for the people of New Brunswick -- we must do everything we can do safely to avoid cost over-runs and excessive delays.

I am in total agreement with him -- as important as this project is to New Brunswick, it may be even more important to the IBEW. Our ability to sucessfully negotiate our next contract, and the liklihood of a second unit at Point Lepreau are strongly dependent on how well we do on this project.

We've all been working hard on the Point Lepreau refurbishment, and we need to keep our focus and continually look for ways to maintain the schedule, and recover time if possible. It's about always working smarter, working safely, and living up to the values of the IBEW "Code of Excellence" -- the best workers, the highest productivity, and the highest quality of work.

(Photo, left to right: Ross Galbraith, New Brunswick Energy Minister Jack Keir)

No comments: