FortisBC responds to comments

Fortis responds to the letter "Who is greedy in FortisBC lockout?"

With FortisBC’s labour dispute continuing despite our efforts toward a resolution, we believe it is important to provide your readers with information regarding recent comments in the Trail Times from Scott Ross, (Who is greedy in FortisBC lockout? Trail Times, Nov. 12) a FortisBC employee represented by IBEW 213.

Recently the union membership voted down a second tentative agreement. The deal was signed and recommended to the membership for ratification by the bargaining committee and by Rod Russell.

We are disappointed with the choice to continue job action and had wanted to see our employees return to work. Clearly the membership and the bargaining committee have different perspectives that will need to be worked through.

These employees make a good wage.  On average, compensation including benefits is $127,000 per year.  This most recent tentative agreement saw a further increase to wages; no changes to benefits and the removal of a productivity enhancement from a prior settlement recommendation from a union selected mediator regarding travelling to and from job sites.

Prior to our two most recent negotiations, FortisBC and the union agreed to an agenda that included a four-day work week and staffing of our system control centre. Both items would reduce costs and enhance productivity for customers while seeing additional wage premiums and value for employees.

Since 2001, some employees represented by IBEW 213 have been working a four-day work week which requires agreement between the company and the employees.  In bargaining both parties agreed to a change that would be part of a new collective agreement and would be in accordance with BC Labour Law. Now, employees who are requested by FortisBC to work this shift would receive a premium of an additional five per cent for all hours worked on the schedule, and an annual shift schedule will be posted giving families time to plan ahead.

Employees in FortisBC’s System Control Centre have traditionally been designated as essential by the Labour Relations Board and have been required to work during a labour disruption. This norm was challenged by the IBEW both in essential services negotiation and in their threat to walk out of the control room leaving it without personnel.  In recent negotiations, FortisBC and the union agreed on a solution that would designate these roles as essential to avoid offsetting wage increases with future training costs for management employees to fulfill this task. The avoidance of these costs directly benefits IBEW employees and FortisBC’s customers.

Throughout these negotiations we have tried to reach an agreement that meets the needs of our employees and customers.  We have bargained in good faith.  And we remain committed to reaching a new collective agreement.

Joyce WagenaarDirector, FortisBC communicationsKelowna