Rally Today at FortisBC Office in Trail For Locked Out IBEW Workers at 4:30 pm

By Andrew Chernoff, West Kootenay Labour Council

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Locked out IBEW Local 213 members at Fortis site in Warfield,supported by CUPE Local 2087-Trail Civic Sub-Local VP Joe Matteucci, and Andrew Chernoff, WKLC Executive member on July 27, 2013.

With contract negotiations at a stand still, a rally has been planned today at the FortisBC office in Trail at 4:30 pm in support of the Brothers and Sisters of IBEW Local 213 in an effort to get public support and get contract negotiations back on track. 

Pam St. Thomas, West Kootenay Labour Council Member-At-Large for Nelson, and BCGEU 1209 Chair, is encouraging everyone to come out to the rally and support the locked out employees of FortisBC.

“Bodies and voices are necessary to show FortisBC that their members are not standing alone – they have support and that both sides need to return to the table.”

“If you are able to, please attend the rally and if you can’t attend the rally please stop by a FortisBC line in your area to drop off some water/coffee and speak with the members about what they are facing with their employer.”, St. Thomas added.

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

“The locked out members of the IBEW need to know that they have the support of the house of labour and their fellow brothers and sisters in the union movement, as well as the support of the community in their struggle for a fair, transparent, good faith collective bargaining process”, Andrew Chernoff, WKLC Member-At-Large for Trail said.

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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