By Art Harrison
Trail Daily Times
For the second time this month locked out International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 213 have rejected an offer by FortisBC to end the four-month lockout that has had members walking the picket lines in the West Kootenay and Okanagan.
“Fortis BC is disappointed with the choice not to endorse the tentative agreement,” said Director of Communications for FortisBC, Joyce Wagenaar. “It was recommended for ratification by the bargaining committee, however the membership did not accept it. Clearly there is a difference in perspective between the bargaining committee and the membership. This is something they need to be looking at.”
Wagenaar said the latest offer of an 11.5 per cent wage increase over five years, an increase to a signing incentive, and other premiums, was above what was recommended by mediator, Vince Ready, in early October.
However, Rod Russell, business manager for IBEW Local 213, has a considerably different take on the results of the ratification vote.
“The reason it was recommended was to give the membership a chance to have their say in it,” he said. “Basically, they took Vince Ready’s recommendation, put a little bit more money in it, took away one concession and the membership voted it down by almost the same margin. I think that should be telling them something.”
The latest offer was rejected by a 59 per cent to 41 per cent margin by employees working in generation, transmission, and distribution operations from Creston through to Princeton in the Southern Interior of the province.
After 18 weeks without pay cheques Russell says the membership are showing the strain of being locked out.
“We’re in a tough spot, no doubt about it,” he said. “Being the business manager, I’ve had it pretty easy compared to the guys on the line. I can’t imagine how they’re getting by without a wage to live on. I can’t think what the relationship is going to be like between the members and the management once this is settled, my guys have been living on nothing and they (management) have been making more money than ever working overtime.”