More Tools in Our Kit
There comes a time in any endeavor when talk isnt good enough and action is required. We have reached that time in our efforts to establish ourselves in the market for voice/data/video (VDV) services.
VDV is our term for a broad range of work that covers broadband, computer networks, multimedia devices, telecommunications services and much more. It is the work of the future that will be of special importance to our construction and telecommunications branches, but whose effects will be felt throughout the Brotherhood. And without a significant presence in the VDV market, we run the risk of becoming marginal players in the economy of the future.
As a Brotherhood, we have spent time at both the construction and VDV conferences in recent years learning about the market, arguing over how to enter it, and assessing how far behind we had fallen. I covered much of that ground in my speeches to those conferences, to our convention in 2001 and in my column exactly one year ago.
Last year I also said that we would work with the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) to put a tool into the hands of contractors and IBEW locals to win that work.
We have negotiated on the national level not one, but two new agreements designed to do just that.
At the VDV Conference and Expo held in March, we unveiled the Voice Data Video National Agreement (VDVNA) and the Voice Data Video National Residential Agreement (VDVNRA). These agreements, mainly affecting the construction branch, are unlike any most of us have seen in our careers. But for those who were paying close attention to the industry, this should come as no surprise.
In the past, I have stated that VDV is not an extension of our traditional work. It is an entirely separate category requiring an entirely different set of skills, and requiring a separate work force within the inside branch. I also said that any IBEW local that wanted to concentrate on traditional electrical work would be allowed to do so, but that the IBEW would not concede the VDV market within their jurisdictions. I said that we would assign the work to a local that handled VDV work even if the territories overlapped.
In the next issue of the IBEW Journal, we will spell out the details of the VDVNA. There are many provisions that will take some getting used to. There are bound to be some kinks that need to be worked out as jurisdictions overlap between traditional electrical work and VDV work. The VDVNA was designed to respect local conditions and local autonomy while at the same time removing obstacles to our ability to seize opportunities in the fastest-growing segment of our industry.
The VDVNRA was negotiated specifically to allow IBEW members who have lost their jobs in the current telecommunications industry downturn to continue working in the industry. We expect to see more opportunities opening up in residential telephone service, and displaced members of our telecom locals will be given the first priority to get this work.
If any in the inside construction branch still ask why we negotiated these agreements, it all comes down to one number: 5.7 percent. That is our current share of the VDV marketthe fastest-growing segment of our industry.
Brothers and sisters, this is about change. Like many of you, I came up through the ranks at a time when the work in our various branches hadnt changed all that much. Im most comfortable with the status quo, as most of us are. If it were up to me wed all be safe and comfortable in industries that are secure and predictable. But thats not the real world these days, and the IBEW has not survived for 112 years by denying reality. No amount of complaining is going to help us make sure that our Brotherhood and all the men and women who come after us will enjoy a future worth having.
Edwin D. Hill
April 2003 IBEW Journal