Fortis lockout may drag into new year
Nov 2, 2013 / 8:03 am
Although a spokesperson for IBEW local 213 was not in favour of the latest tentative agreement between the union and FortisBC, he felt it was their decision to make.
That statement from Rod Russell, who says the membership deserved a chance to make the final decision themselves; the group voted down the latest deal earlier this week with 59 per cent of the union saying No.
He is also not happy with the company’s stubborn decision to suddenly add new concessions to the latest contract that would affect schedules and system control.
“You get locked out, you’re suffering and now let’s squeeze for more. That’s really the feeling. A bunch of those new concessions existed in this latest package that went to the membership,” says Russell.
“Why, in the midst of a lockout, do they feel the need to add significant concessionary items and say they need productivity gains? They saved a bunch of money in wages, (because) they haven’t been paying our people. I think their latest BCUC submission would see their rates going up 19 per cent by 2018. They’re not planning on losing money in the future, so are we really asking too much?”
The language in the current agreement is to work four 10-hour days, which is mutually agreeable and something many workers support. Russell says FortisBC wants to take away the ‘mutually agreeable‘ part, but workers fear the new language will not be restrictive enough and worry how it would affect their family lives and personal time if they can’t plan ahead.
“It’s a very difficult situation,” says Russell, when asked of the union members current status.
“From my standpoint, there is a certain amount of angst going to the company with something because they seem to think we’re weak and going to cave and they can squeeze us. Some of our membership is suffering, no doubt about it, some of them are desperate to that point where they just want to go back to work. Others have left and terminated their employment.”
Russell is not optimistic that anything will get settled before the New Year and points out this latest vote only gained four per cent more positive votes when compared to the last.
“It’s still a significant clear majority saying they’re not going to accept this. I guess (FortisBC) is interested in a 51 per cent approval, but we’re not and that’s not where we want to be.”
For those who feel that IBEW 213 is doing this for the money, Russell says that is wrong and people don’t understand the situation.
“You don’t know what it's like to tell your children in November that Christmas isn’t going to happen. No you can’t play hockey, you can’t go into the soccer academy, or you can’t get a new ski jacket this year,” he says.
“I know there’s a lot of people that think it’s just the greedy union, but look at the proposal, look at where we’re at. We’re not trying to grind this company for half of their $49-million profit last year."
Russell says there are no further talks scheduled at this time.
“If they don’t want to negotiate and ram stuff down our throat, we’re not going to let them do that now or in the future. We don’t want to let them get away with this kind of mistreatment and bullying tactics.”
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