The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 213 is in the process of voting on the latest offer by FortisBC in an effort to end the 18-week lockout of 230 employees working in generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity in B.C.’s Southern Interior.
“They held the vote in Trail Tuesday, and have voted in Penticton, now we’re moving on to Kelowna for their vote,” Business Manager for the IBEW, Rod Russell, said from the Okanagan Wednesday. “There’s still some key concessions on the table but there’s a slight increase in the wages and lump sum payment they were offering.”
Russell stressed that money hasn’t been the main issue for the workers in this dispute, instead pointing the finger at the concessions the company had been asking for that presented a sticking point.
“Our international representative met with the company,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re going to go for it, it’s up to them.”
Director of Communications for FortisBC, Joyce Wagenaar, said that both parties in the dispute acknowledged the sensitivity of the situation and wanted to avoid the possibility of the employees being inflamed by media reports and therefore had kept their most recent discussions quiet.
“Since last week both parties decided to come together,” Wagenaar said. “There’s a tentative agreement and the employees are holding their vote.”
Russell said the new offer was similar to the last one, which was rejected by the membership, but that they were committed to allowing the workers to make the decision for themselves.
“If it’s ‘yes’ then we go back to work, if it’s ‘no’ then we’re back to trying to figure out how to get the public behind us in this,” Russell said.
“I think we all know we’ve got good jobs, a decent wage. For us this isn’t about trying to get more of anything, it’s about trying to hang on to what we’ve got and not lose it.”