Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Graveyard shift

3:39 a.m. Tuesday, May 13. I have had very little to do this evening and time is moving at a snails pace. I am the lone pipe fitter in my area and I have nobody to talk to. I have entertained myself playing spider solitaire and Minesweeper. I have perused websites dedicated to those who monitor black helicopters. I must say it was quite entertaining. The odd thing about conspiracy theorists is that what they're saying makes sense for a little while then they just go way too far and you see that they're absolutely insane. I spent a little bit of time checking in on my friends at healing well.com. I ate three maple bars. In two more hours I will be able to call Mandy to give her a wake up call. In 3 1/2 hours I will be halfway home. I can't wait to jump into a nice hot shower and then get some much-needed sleep. Ordinarily on a tour shift rotation I will work two12 hour day shifts followed by two 12 hour night shifts followed by four days off. This week I have to come in on one of my days off for a machine overhaul. When I left the house last evening I glanced at my retirement clock. The timer is already down to 236 days. It's amazing to me how quickly time passes. I hate this place. There was a time not long ago when it felt good to come to work. This company used to be owned by a local family. Back then it wasn't real profitable but you knew that the owners cared about the employees. It doesn't feel that way anymore. Now days we are expected to do more for less. it's a contract year. Four years ago during contract negotiations we lost our pension. Contract negotiations began two weeks ago and the company has already presented us with a long list of takeaways. One of those takeaways may very well adversely affect my retirement plans. Currently if an employee receives a disability retirement, the employee will receive 75% of the life insurance policy the company has on the employee as a retirement benefit. It's not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things but to a person who will no longer be receiving a paycheck it can make a substantial difference in post employment finances.    in my case it literally will be the deciding factor whether or not I can retire in January. The company wants to take this benefit away from us. There are a lot of other takeaways on their two page list but this is the one that will impact my future the most. Eight years ago when this company was bought out things begin to change. In many ways I'm grateful for the change. The business was losing money. There was no job security and really no hope for the future. From the onset of acquisition by the new owners changes began. The workforce was cut from 1200 hourly employees to 700. At the time of acquisition there were 12 paper machines at this facility. Now there are only five. The new owners promised us that yes, changes would be made jobs would be lost, but for those who were left,  they would be rewarded. The new owners set production and profitability goals. They asked a lot of us and we did everything that they asked. We exceeded profitability and production goals and did it a year earlier then their projected timeline. Perhaps I am na├»ve but I was actually cautiously optimistic about the upcoming contract negotiations this year. I really felt like we were going to be rewarded for our hard work. After several meetings between the bargaining board and the company I now feel like I have been slapped in the face. We have done every thing that they asked of us and more. We have worked long hard hours every day every week for the last four years. We have brought this company from the verge of closure to being one of the most profitable mills in the country. I suppose we should be happy that the new owners didn't pack up the whole mill and ship it to China. Personally, the way I feel right now, I wish they would have. 
I'm tired. I know I'm whining but I think I'm just a little frustrated. I also have a real understanding about the way things work. I know that a lot of the items on this list is simply posturing. After all, if the union is going to come in asking for improvements in wages and benefits, then the company has no choice but to present the union a list of takeaways. The problem is ithat some of these takeaways will certainly come to fruition when the contract is ratified. The union is tasked with providing the best contract for the majority of the membership. Until the contract is ratified my future is left uncertain. Had I known that the life insurance benefit would be on the chopping block I would have initiated disability retirement months ago. Now it may very well be too late. I've crunched the numbers and if I lose the disability benefit it will mean that I have to stay here for two more years. For most people two years really isn't that long. To a person with stage four cancer two years could be a lifetime. I don't want to retire because I'm too sick to work. I want to be able to retire and enjoy a few years of not working. When I was diagnosed I never thought I'd see 50. I actually never thought I'd live long enough to receive my journeyman rating as a pipefitter. I sure as heck didn't believe I'd live long enough to retire. Right now retirement for me is a reality. I may actually get to spend a few years not working and enjoying all the benefits that retirement has to offer. I really hope so. Todd