Area union workers gathered in downtown Trail to show their support for locked out Fortis BC workers and their families on Wednesday afternoon.
The march and rally to the Fortis BC building included members of Local 480 Steelworkers and other local unions for the members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 213 who have been locked out since June.
However, the rally may be the last action necessary in the labour clash of management and employees.
After three months of lockout, numerous applications to the Labour Relations Board (LRB,) and one failed attempt at mediation, the company and union representatives are, once again, in Vancouver meeting with mediator Vince Ready in an attempt to resolve the dispute.
While the two sides seeking common ground at the table in the Lower Mainland, support is growing for the 230 employees who work in power generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity in the West Kootenay and Okanagan.
“We just want to show that we’re supportive of their cause to try to bargain a fair collective agreement,” said Armindo deMedeiros, president of Local 480.
“Fortis locked them out and walked away from mediation the first time, they seem to be dragging their feet in this.
“The IBEW have been out for a long time and they want to settle this. We’re standing behind them.”
Speaking from Vancouver, Rod Russell, IBEW business manager, expressed limited optimism in returning to mediation but said he felt it was necessary if any progress was to be made in the lengthy lockout.
“We made a proposal to the company to go back to mediation,” he said. “To be fair to the members we had to try to get talking again.”
Russell said that there were numerous issues that needed discussion in order to resolve the differences between the two sides and that there was tremendous resolution in the membership but understood the toll the lockout was having on the workers.
“They’ve been without a paycheque for three months and the guys are feeling it,” Russell said. “It’s got to be affecting communities with members not out spending money. Nobody is going out for dinner or buying vehicles. We’ve suggested this mediation but we hope the company isn’t getting the impression that we’re weakening. But we won’t get anywhere without talking.”
From Fortis BC’s standpoint, the return to mediation is a positive sign.
“We’re very glad to return to negotiations,” said Joyce Wagenaar, director of communications for Fortis BC. “We hope to come to an agreement that meets the needs of our customers and our employees.”