No movement in FortisBC lockout

No talks planned to end four-month lockout of IBEW workers

There are no talks scheduled and no end in sight at the four month mark of the Fortis BC lockout of 230 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) employed by the company in electrical generation, transmission, and distribution.

We don’t have any talks planned right now,” said local bargaining committee member, Albert Bortolussi from Oliver. “We’re trying to get the company back to talk about the (mediator’s) recommendations to see if we can’t find some kind of common ground but so far there’s none of that.”

Negotiations between the company and union broke down Oct. 7 when the recommendations presented by mediator, Vince Ready, were rejected by the IBEW members in a ratification vote.

We had hoped our employees would be back to work Oct. 7,” Joyce Wagenaar, Fortis BC director of communications said from Vancouver. “We were disappointed. We accepted Mr. Ready’s recommendations and the union, who had recommended Mr. Ready as mediator, rejected his recommendations (for a settlement.)”

The IBEW maintains that the settlement brought forward by Ready was tilted in the company’s favour.

Ready’s recommendations were concessionary,” said Bortolussi. “We want the company to come to the table and bargain. You meet people across the table and try to come to a mutual agreement but so far, with this company, there’s been a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude.”

The company maintains it needs to keep its right to make management decisions which might affect the way the company operates.

We put forward production enhancements focussing on work practices,” said Wagenaar. “We would like to see our employees back to work.”

Wagenaar said that the company is continuing its commitment to providing the electrical service its customers need without interruption and that anyone with any questions about service or billing can contact them through the call centre.

We’re working primarily through estimates at this point,” she said. “We do have the ability to take meter readings but it’s a question of resources.”