No Signs Of New Talks Between FortisBC & IBEW

Mediated talks between FortisBC & IBEW 213 broke off August 21

By Andrew Chernoff

It’s week nine of the lockout , and nearly a week since mediated talks with Vince Ready broke down on August 21, and both sides are no nearer to establishing further contract talks.

According to the Nelson Daily last week, Joyce Wagenaar, Director of Communications at FortisBC said, “It became clear that there wasn’t a lot to work with if the union was willing to negotiate or explore solutions,”.

Rod Russell, IBEW Local 213 business manager, told the Nelson Daily, that he blamed the company for walking away, saying, “(FortisBC) keeps saying they want to bargain, but they don’t want to bargain,”.

“It makes no sense. I don’t think a mediator could make senses of it. The parties are so close and Fortis just tried to drive a ridiculous wedge . . ..” Russell added.

A new issue in negotiations last Wednesday, according to the Nelson Daily, was radius language, which Russell told the Nelson Daily, “We will never agree to radius language . . . we will never agree to two-tier deals”.

Russell was upset that FortisBC would bring something new into the negotiations that was not there prior to the mediation, telling the Nelson Daily, “…it’s bargaining in bad faith to try to throw this stuff on the table. Fortis had put a proposal for job description on the table but we have never seen this stuff from them during negotiations.”

With silence from both parties on future talks, and a future date in front of the Labour Relations Boards in September, dealing with issues of managers contravening the essential services order, it could be some time before another attempt at negotiations.

The 240 union members of IBEW Local 213 locked out on June 26 by FortisBC, will continue to walk the picket lines, without any sign of end to the lockout.

The lockout affects employees on the electrical side of the company working in generation, transmission, and distribution operations.

The two sides were bargaining since January when the existing collective agreement expired January 31.

During bargaining, FortisBC went directly to the employees with an offer that was rejected by 88 percent of the union membership.

The union offer calls for a three percent per year wage increase for three years, retroactive, a Family Day for employees and a leave provision with benefits for people who accept union positions.

The last labour dispute between employees and Fortis was in 2001 and lasted for four months.

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