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Published: Winter, 2003; Vol 5, Num 1

 

Canadian Local 506 Solve Record-Keeping Problem

John Mandarino

In every industry, technology is a part of the work landscape. For the most part, technology takes a task that was once time consuming and tedious and turns it into an easily executed exercise that makes life and work easier.

LIUNA and its day-to-day operations are touched by technology as much as any other workplace. On the job, our members experience new work devices and techniques on a yearly if not monthly basis. However, inside our union offices workers also must embrace new technologies and manipulate them to improve our members' lives and create a more efficient work environment.

All training funds get requests from business agents, employers and members for copies of certificates, training records and verification that a member has completed required training and/or is qualified to perform specific tasks or operate particular types of equipment. Searching for and maintaining records and producing new cards or certificates can use up a lot of staff time, not to mention the inconvenience for members having to carry multiple laminated cards and pieces of paper to show employers, government inspectors and others.

At a time when the Local 506 Training Fund in Toronto was struggling to amalgamate training records from three different databases (and occasionally from hard-copy files), Assistant Director of Training, Kevin Llewellyn, began to look into the possibility of combining photo identification with training records to create a single ID card for members. A couple of different products were tested before settling on the Identicam system.

Identicam prints plastic cards (no laminating necessary) which have on one side the member's picture and membership number and, on the other side, all courses and certificates acquired (with dates when needed). Up to 30 courses or certificates can be listed. The cards also have a slit so that they can be worn (string over the head) if so desired. They are even more portable than "Smart Cards" as no special device is required to read the information they contain.

Through the use of this technology, Local 506 demolition workers employed outside the Province of Ontario, for example, simply have to show their identification cards to the local Ministry of Labour representative as proof of their qualification(s). The identification card has come be known as the "Green Card," primarily because of its colour, but also because it is a kind of permission to work in other jurisdictions.

Members' pictures are taken using a digital camera and can be inserted in the TRAC files with their training records. Updating as necessary is comparatively easy, quick and inexpensive. By far, the biggest task initially, especially for long-term members, is to make sure training records are complete and up to date. Once this is completed, the member's record is organized and accessible

So far, four hundred (400) Local 506 members have received cards. The goal is to have every member receive a card, and it is expected that approximately 2000 will have them by the end of 2003.

Other Training Funds in both the U.S. and Canada have expressed an interest in the system, and the Local 506 Training Fund will gladly provide information and assistance to any Fund considering the incorporation of this system. For more information, call 416-638-0506.

Any technology, once the learning curve has leveled-off, can be manipulated for our convenience. The Local 506 identification card is an excellent example of embracing technology to create efficiency and ease for the Local and its members.

[John Mandarino is the LIUNA Canadian Tri-Fund Research and Field Coordinator.]