The legislative amendment in the Foresters Act that requires persons practicing professional forestry as defined in the scope of practice by the ABCFP, came into law on June 20, 2003. Following this change we have heard from many members of the Environmental, Technical & Operational Component and were well aware of the possible implications of this legislative change.
As per Article 29 in the Master Agreement, the BCGEU and the various ministries meet regularly to work together on issues that arise in the ministries. It was the union members from this committee that brought this issue forward to the joint committee and asked that the committee discuss and follow the issue closely.
The Ministry of Forests set up a working group to delve into the implications of the legislative change and make recommendations to the executive on how they might deal with the change and how it could affect the organization and the employees. After discussions of the Article 29 table the ministry agreed to appoint one the Article 29 union members to the working group.
In a parallel process and due to the complex nature of the issue and the diversity of view from members the ETO Component Executive decided that it was best to form a committee of the ground technicians from around the province. The appointment of members of this committee was done based on geographic diversity as well as educational background. The committee was chaired by Larry Martin, a technician from the Ministry of Forests who has a broad background in the Ministry of Forests. Larry is also the Article 29 member appointed the Ministry of Forests working group and on the ETO Component Executive.
The final determination of which employees are required to obtain the Registered Forest Technologist designation rests with the Association of British Columbia Forest Professionals (ABCFP). However, the ministry determines how the organization can meet the requirements of the ABCFP through defining job functions, supervisory structure and mandatory job requirements.
Many factors must be acknowledged when looking at an issue such as this. The implications for those employees that don't immediately meet the requirements of obtaining the RFT designation caused the union some nervousness. Through discussions with the ABCPF the grandparenting provisions were broadened as much as possible to ensure that technicians without the necessary post secondary education could obtain the designation. In addition, the financial implications on members must be considered. The working group recommended, and to their credit the executive approved, the reimbursement of application, examination and registration costs for members obtaining the designation prior to Dec.1, 2006. The entire working group report is on the Ministry of Forests internal website.
Whether members agree with this legislative change or not it is extremely important that members co-operate with the association and meet the deadlines specified by the ABCFP. There will be outstanding issues that will require a bargained change to the collective agreement. Bargaining resolutions are dealt with by attending a local meeting in your area which if approved are then passed on to the component. Members are always encouraged to put their mind to bargaining resolutions for this and any other issue that could be addressed with a change to the collective agreement.
The majority of members that will be affected by the legislative change to the Foresters Act work for the Ministry of Forests, however some members in other ministries and the Oil & Gas Commission may also be affected. The BCGEU is encouraging these other employers to set up working groups to analyse similar implications to their organization and subsequently their employees.
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