In 1992, the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) Local 5385 at Brunswick Mines in Bathurst, New Brunswick negotiated a literacy and basic skills program. The CLC's Education and Skills Training (EAST) helped establish the program. The EAST program no longer exists, but the local program continued until 1999. Some 650 workers are employed at the mine. The employer generally supported the program from the start.
The company paid for the entire program, including books and materials, and four hours per week paid time for students. About 30 people a year have gone through the program, which has two classes, one in French and one in English. Some students have gone onto do their GED. Close links were maintained with the community college. New Brunswick has a CASP (Community Academic Services Program) in each community college which supports workplace literacy programs.
People take the program for different reasons. "
One person wanted to
know how to write cheques, while another wanted to know how to post
for positions, and yet another wanted high school completion," said
Sherry Morris on, one of the program's peer instructors.
The Canadian Auto Workers has had BEST programs in the Chrysler plants since 1992. The BEST program was needed for a number of reasons.
Some workers needed to upgrade skills while other workers needed
English as a Second Language," said CAW local 444 spokes person Ron
Mosienko. "Some workers could not read health and safety notices while
others were reluctant to post for better jobs, although they had the
needed seniority, because of their low reading skills."
At the Windsor CAW Local 444, about 200 workers have gone through the four-level program. Some go onto take Independent Learning Centre (ILC) correspondence courses with the Ontario Ministry of Education.
Members participate for 4 hours a week, 50 per cent on paid company time and 50 per cent on their own time. The employer also pays for the replacement workers. The union has negotiated a lump sum for training which can be used for this purpose.
At the Chrysler plant in Bramalea, Ontario, where a program has been in place for a number of years, the CAW has renegotiated the terms with the company outside of the regular bargaining process.
Sometimes training agreements can be negotiated for an entire sector. This agreement shows we can act on literacy and basic skills on many levels - employer-wide, industry-wide, regionally or province-wide.
In 1998, unions, community colleges and the provincial government in British Columbia negotiated the Training Accord (the Policy Accord on Government Training Expenditures). The accord was signed by employers (colleges, universities, college institutes and agencies) as represented by the Public Service Employers' Association, unions [College Institute Educators' Association (CIEA), British Columbia Government Employees Union, and others], and the provincial government.