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IBEW Local 213 decides not to ratify tentative deal with Fortis BC, lockout continues
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 213 members have voted down a tentative agreement reached in the four-month old Fortis BC lockout, leaving the 200-plus members behind lockout lines.
The vote was 59 percent against accepting a tentative five-year deal.
“We’re very close . . . we’re so close,” Kerry Hiebert of the IBEW Local 213 bargaining committee told The Nelson Daily Thursday.
“And (Fortis BC) would be crazy not to pursue this further.”
FortisBC Director of Communications Joyce Wagenaar said the company was advised Thursday the IBEW Local 213 membership decided not to ratify the tentative five-year deal.
The IBEW Local 213 bargaining committee had recommended the tentative deal for approval.
“Certainly we’re disappointed with (IBEW’s) choice to continue job action,” Wagenaar said.
“We wanted to see our employees return to work.”
FortisBC and IBEW Local 213 have been without a contract since January 31, 2013.
After months of bargaining resulted in no deal, Fortis BC locked out approximately 225 IBEW Local 213 workers on June 26 as a result of work slowdown by the union and concern over safety.
Following four months of the lockout, and countless hours of bargaining and mediation, the two sides reached a tentative deal last week.
However, voting Tuesday and Wednesday by unionized members rejected the tentative deal.
Wagenaar said most recent tentative deal included a wage package of 11.5 percent over the life of the contract, a signing bonus, no changes to employee benefits and the removal of some contentious language by the company that dealt with productivity enhancement — compensation for travel between job sites.
“It appears the bargaining committee and union membership have different perspectives and they need to work through those issues,” Wagenaar said when asked her thoughts on why the membership voted the agreement down.
“We continue to be available to return to the bargaining table,” Wagenaar added. “We’re committed to reaching a new collective agreement and we’d like to see our employees return to work.”
However, Hiebert said the bargaining committee and its members are on the same page, and that Fortis BC needs to recognize a couple of major stumbling blocks that remain need to be bargained before a deal can be done.
“These aren’t concessionary times for this business that made $50 Million last year,” Hiebert explains.
“The money isn’t the problem . . . it’s right the ball park. But there are two contentious issues the company knows are sticking points for the membership from previous votes and discussions that we had.”
The IBEW represents employees various generation, transmission and distribution operations, including power line technicians, electricians and system power dispatchers in the Southern region of BC that stretches from Princeton to Creston and up through the Okanagan Valley to Winfield.
As part of the essential services order agreed to by both parties, Fortis BC managers recently took over System Control facility in Warfield, an operations center that controls dams on the Kootenay River and sending of electricity on the power grids that was previously manned by IBEW personal.
The agreement says Fortis BC will be fined if any IBEW members are called in to help run the System Control operations.