IBEW Local 213 agrees to FortisBC 'Binding Interest Arbitration' offer, with conditions
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 213 Business Manager Rod Russell said Wednesday the union is willing to accept the recent offer of “Binding Interest Arbitration” from FortisBC to end the five-plus month labour dispute.
However, some conditions are attached to the recent IBEW Local 213 counter proposal FortisBC must agree to before the process can begin.
“We gave (FortisBC) four options . . . the first three are the options we gave them when bargaining broke off last week,” Russell told The Nelson Daily Wednesday.
The package Russell is referring to was provided to FortisBC Tuesday afternoon.
“The fourth option is counter to the FortisBC “Binding Interest Arbitration” option because there are some things in their proposal that is problematic for us,” Russell adds.
“It’s not our preferred way to get a resolution in this dispute . . . we’d rather see negotiated settlement that is ratified,” Russell added. “But the reality is FortisBC does not seem interested in moving off of these items.”
Russell said the items in question include the System Control Centre, compressed work week, job descriptions and stat holidays.
“There will be a list of outstanding items given to the arbitrator and those are only the items, and those outstanding items, is what the arbitrator will be deciding,” Russell said.
Russell also said the union has tweaked the return to work dialogue that would see members back on the job.
“None of this stuff is insurmountable or should prove to be a road block to the company if they’re serious in getting a deal,” Russell said.
Russell explained the union had difficulty with how the arbitrator would be selected.
The new proposal deals with how the IBEW Local 213 and FortisBC would arrive at determining who is going to lay the foundation for the new collective agreement.
“There is a huge list of arbitrators out there so we said we would work to agree on an arbitrator . . . and if we can’t come to an agreement, the Labour Board would appoint an arbitrator randomly selected from our (current) collective agreement,” Russell said.
“We currently have three arbitrators in our collective agreement that have been agreed on by the parties.”
FortisBC and IBEW Local 213 have been without a contract since January 31, 2013.
The labour dispute between the IBEW Local 213 and FortisBC has been going on since June 26 when the company locked out the employees.
Since the lockout FortisBC managers have been responsible for performing the normal union maintenance work.
The lockout has put more than 200 employees (all with FortisBC Electric) — including electricians, linemen, millwrights, meter readers and office staff have from Princeton to Creston and up through the Okanagan Valley to Winfield — on the picket line.
“Third party arbitration is not what the union is interested in,” Russell said. “I’m disappointed that we never got to a deal . . ..
“From out standpoint we’re just standing up to the bully,” Russell adds. “Everybody has got a bloody nose out of this. Nobody feels good and nobody looks good.”
The Nelson Daily contacted FortisBC before this story was published and is waiting for the company to comment on the recent IBEW Local 213 proposal.