UPDATED: IBEW Local 213 soundly rejects recommendations from mediator Vince Ready; FortisBC surprised by vote
It appears the sides in the FortisBC lockout of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 213 are getting farther apart instead of closer together.
In a media release, IBEW Local 213 Bargaining agent Rod Russell said recommendations from mediator Vince Ready have been soundly rejected by the union membership.
“The locked out employees voted on the Vince Ready recommendations without Union directed acceptance or rejection recommendations,” Russell said in the media release.
“Each individual cast their secret ballot resulting in an overwhelming rejection of the recommendations.”
Ready sent his recommendations to both parties Sunday, September 29 after mediation talks in Vancouver September 25-26.
“We’re really disappointed because the union had recommended Mr. Ready and we’re surprised that his recommendations were not accepted,” said FortisBC Director of Communications Joyce Wagenaar Sunday from her home in Kelowna.
Russell said FortisBC ratified the recommendations of Ready Monday, September 30.
However, Russell said mediator recommendations were concessions the membership could not agree on.
“The addition of numerous contentious concessions during mediation which were included in the recommendation made it unpalatable to the membership in spite of being locked out for more than three months . . .,” Russell explained.
Wagenaar said Russell’s comments are somewhat surprising because prior to mediation talks, an agenda was agreed to by both parties.
“We had hoped our employees would be returning to work tomorrow (Monday, October 7),” Wagenaar confessed.
“Mr. Ready had elements for both parties, certainly for our employees there were items touched on which were an increase in wages, no changes to benefits . . . items such as flexible schedules, education reimbursement.
The lockout of 240 union IBEW Local 213 members began June 26 after FortisBC applied to the B.C. Labour Relations Board in April to have certain services designated as “Essential Services,” and was granted the designation.
The IBEW represents employees various generation, transmission and distribution operations, including power line technicians, electricians and system power dispatchers in the Southern region of BC that stretches from Princeton to Creston and up through the Okanagan Valley to Winfield.
FortisBC and IBEW Local 213 staged mediated talks in late August with the assistance of third party private mediator Vince Ready.
However, talks broke down after one day.
Russell said the IBEW Local 213 bargaining committee is ready and willing at anytime to get back to the negotiating table to agree on a fair and reasonable settlement.
Russell said if no talks can be scheduled, ratepayers should be asking why the company is refusing to bargain.
“The Union believes the parties should be working to bring themselves closer to a resolution not drive them apart,” Russell said.
“The Union also believes ratepayers should be questioning the reasons why FortisBC locked out their employees, has not shown signs of being interested in reaching a renewed collective agreement and how this lockout is being funded.”
“The locked out employees want to go back to work and provide the service they specialize in to the ratepayers but are not willing to be starved into submission when the proposal is not unreasonable,” Russell added.
Wagenaar said FortisBC had hoped this latest round of talks would result in an agreement.
However, the company continues to be ready to work with IBEW Local 213 to end this lockout.
“Of course (FortisBC) remains committed to negotiating and being available to return to the bargaining table,” Wagenaar explains. “We’d like to resolve this for our employess and our customers.”