Letters to the Editor

Letter: FortisBC ‘committed to resolving’ labour dispute

To the editor:

Re: FortisBC labour dispute

Following the publication of a letter by S. Robinson on Oct. 8 [Negotiating Goalposts Shifty, Capital News], I am providing some information for your readers regarding the current labour dispute at FortisBC. Our goal throughout negotiations is to reach a negotiated settlement that balances the needs of our employees with the impact to our customers’ rates.

Recently, FortisBC engaged in mediation with the union and the assistance of Vince Ready, who the union recommended as a mediator. At the completion of mediation, Mr. Ready presented a set of recommendations which both the company and the union accepted in principle prior to ratification. This included an 11 per cent increase in wages over five years, plus a signing bonus and additional premiums. It is an agreement that includes no concessions to benefits. There were also a number of items filed by FortisBC and the union that would allow productivity enhancements by focusing on improved work practices without any salary or benefit reductions to employees.

FortisBC ratified the recommendations, while the membership of the IBEW 213 did not.

Also there are no concessions regarding time off. These employees currently enjoy three to seven weeks of annual vacation; 15 days off special vacation every five years; in addition to 14 days off each year, to observe statutory holidays and other days. FortisBC is closed for business on Family Day, with the exception of on-call personnel in management and our bargaining units for emergency response.

We would like to see our employees return to work but as we are operating under an Essential Services Order (ESO), this will not be possible until a new collective agreement is reached. We activated the ESO on June 26 following the union indicating that employees in the system control centre for our electrical operations would walk off the job. Unfortunately, the only way the company could activate the ESO is by serving lock out notice to the union.

We remain committed to resolving this for our employees and customers by negotiating a new collective agreement.

Joyce Wagenaar,

director, FortisBC communications



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