The dark days are over – at least for the unionized workers at Florida Power and Light – in the Sunshine State and it’s thanks to the Code of Excellence.
Poor working conditions and strained relationships had become the norm for the IBEW and Florida Power and Light and things needed to change. Once the code was implemented, that is exactly what happened. What’s more, they improved to the point of FPL becoming an award-winning company.
|Florida Power and Light, one of the first utilities to implement the Code of Excellence, recently won an award for its service reliability rating. Pictured: International President Lonnie R. Stephenson, left, and FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy.
“There isn’t a speech I give where I don’t utilize you as a poster child for how well the code works,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson to FPL employees at an event in November to celebrate its successful implementation.
The event also served as a rollout of a new emblem that will be affixed to all hardhats and trucks in the utility’s fleet.
“I’ve been highly pleased with the results and I know my counterparts at Florida Power and Light feel the same way,” Stephenson said.
In Florida, the code has been in place since 2011 when it was adopted by the 11 local unions of System Council U-04 with members employed by FPL. Sarasota Local 820 Business Manager Bob Porter said the majority of members have embraced it. “It’s helped with safety and with settling things on the ground.” FPL employs about 3,000 members.
Before, there were dragged-out contract negotiations, over 1,500 grievances and deteriorating job safety. Things needed to change, so the IBEW took the lead and initiated the utility Code of Excellence. It worked. And once FPL management saw the results, they agreed to code-related training during working hours.
The training emphasizes safety and professionalism as well as using the tools of the union to deal with any issues. Each local has a steward dedicated to the code who serves as a liaison between members and management while also coaching and mentoring members.
There is also a focus on public image, teaching members the importance of professionalism on public perception.
“It’s a cultural change,” said Line Specialist Laquanta Ransom, who is also a trainer. “If the company looks good, we look good, and if everyone gets on board [with the code], we’ll be a flawless company.”
“It’s all about having guys come out and work their eight, do the right thing, and go home to their family safe and sound,” said Clifford Harris, a lineman with Miami Local 359 and trainer with Ransom. “It’s a big step in the right direction.”
The results have been dramatic: the grievance backlog dropped and OSHA reportable accidents fell by 50 percent.
“I’ve been here for a while and it’s a better place to work now,” said Ft. Pierce Local 627 Business Manager Mark McNichol. “I think the code is part of that.”
The positive changes extended to public service, with the company winning a national award for its service reliability, which exceeded 99.98 percent in 2014. FPL was given the award by PA Consulting, a firm that analyzes electric utility performance, and evaluated in a number of categories including storm responsiveness, technology and innovation.
“We’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished here,” said Utility Department Director Jim Hunter. “This is one of the best safety records in the history of the company.”
Porter said he is glad to see that FPL has recognized the code’s effectiveness. “They see the difference and they’re very happy to have the best workforce they can.”
“It represents the best of what our company and the IBEW have to offer,” said FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy. “Providing the highest quality, on-time service possible, and importantly, doing it safely every single day.”