“We are all in it together”, says Jay Arnston, fibreline control room operator and president of the local United Steelworkers Union. “It wasn’t always this way”, he says, describing his many years of union involvement with Sappi and previous owners of the mill. “But we’ve come a long way. There is a lot more transparency, and we are informed about a lot of the decision making.”
Loren Manty, the local president of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers (NCF&O) agrees: “The whole union role has changed. We realised we both need each other, and we are working on the same side. We still have differences, but we can sit down, talk and figure out what’s right. It is beneficial all the way around.” Loren also says there is no greater example of this co-operation than in the safety approach at Cloquet.
“With Sappi, it is obvious that safety is the number one goal. We all work on it together. There is no difference in hierarchy regarding safety.”
“The culture has shifted”, Loren continues. “In the past, people were scared to ripple the water. Now we are empowered for safety. If you see a minor accident, we all work to make it so it never happens again. We have torn down a wall between us and them.”
Jay also lauds the safety effort at Cloquet. “We have team safety leads for all shifts”, he says. “There is more engagement. We have two hourlies, a safety liaison and an industrial hygienist working full time on safety.
Safety is a constant work in progress. We have a Safety Leadership Council, including both hourly and salaried employees, that meets monthly to create and sustain safety standards.