Locked out FortisBC workers voting on proposal

Members of IBEW Local 213 voted Wednesday on recommendations proposed by a mediator to settle the 3 month long lockout by Fortis BC.

A subdued atmosphere was apparent on the picket line Thursday as members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 213 considered Wednesday night’s vote on recommendations proposed by mediator Vince Ready to settle the three-month long lockout by Fortis BC.

While no details of the recommendations could be released until the remainder of the union members in the Okanagan had the opportunity to vote Thursday night, local opinion appeared to be mixed, at best, about the proposed settlement.

“In my opinion there was nothing in that contract for us, it was all for the company,” said local IBEW member, Sean O’Farrell. “We’ve spent the last three months locked out for the same thing we went on strike for 10 years ago.”

The company and union returned to the bargaining table last week at the union’s request in an effort to resolve the dispute that has put almost 230 unionized employees out of work for the summer.

“The union asked to go back to the table,” said Rod Russell, business manager for IBEW Local 213. “The company would only agree to go back if they could bring new items to the table. Vince Ready’s recommendation… well, you could say Mr. Ready didn’t have a lot to work with.”

As of press time no results were available on the vote by the Okanagan-based members of the IBEW and local members of the bargaining committee were reluctant to express too strong of an opinion before the entire membership had the opportunity to register their thoughts on the proposal.

“It’s up in the air but the bargaining committee is staying neutral,” said local committee member, Albert Bortolussi.

“It’s hard to get a read on the guys, they’ve been out for over three months. Our advice to them was that ‘you have the information, read it and talk to your families and then vote.’ Ready made his recommendation, we brought it back to the members, now it’s in their hands.”

From the Fortis BC side of the table, hopes are high that the recommendations are accepted by the membership.

“The company accepted Mr. Ready’s recommendations and now the unionized employees are voting on it,” said Joyce Wagenaar, director of communications for Fortis BC.

“Hopefully it will be positive news and we could see employees back to work by early next week.”

The IBEW’s business manager wasn’t prepared to predict how the membership’s vote would turn out.

“The company was bringing big ticket items to the table. A lot of people are pissed off but they’ve been off for three and a half months now,” said Russell.

“We had committed to bring any recommendations back to the membership. If it goes through some people will be disappointed, if it doesn’t go through some people will be disappointed.”

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