Fortis, unions discuss merger

Two sides can’t reach agreement.

Terasen Gas officially became known as FortisBC March 1, but since taking on the company label the union and company representatives have failed to seal an agreement on various collective agreements.

Discussions between the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union 378 (COPE) that represent former Terasen employees and FortisBC broke down Friday.

“Representatives from FortisBC and COPE 378 have agreed to discontinue discussions on the amalgamation of various collective agreements,” read a bulletin sent out by the FortisBC bargaining committee.

The discussions reached an impasse when COPE refused to accept concessions related to time-off provisions and wages. The employees’ union then advised FortisBC that it intends to serve notice to begin bargaining on the expired collective agreement. However, when contacted, the union declined to give details or comment further.

“We don’t want to take that level of detail and discussion out of the bargaining table at this point, so for now there is no more comment,” said Sage Aaron spokesperson for COPE 378.

FortisBC started the talks in hopes of amalgamating the FortisBC bargaining unit into the two FortisBC Energy bargaining units and Terasen Gas customer services centres.

“The discussions were difficult but valuable and COPE 378 was advised that FortisBC remains committed to amalgamation in some form,” said the notice.

FortisBC employs more than 2,000 British Columbians and supplies electricity to more than 12,000 customers in the Okanagan and Boundary regions.

Newfoundland-based Fortis Inc. acquired Terasen Gas in 2007. Calls to FortisBC were not returned Friday.