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IBEW Local 213 takes cautious approach after FortisBC tenders 'Binding Interest Arbitration' offer

Bruce Fuhr
By Bruce Fuhr
December 8th, 2013


The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 213 has decided to take a few days before accepting or refusing after FortisBC tendered an offer of “Binding Interest Arbitration” to solve the five-plus month labour dispute.

“The Union is consulting with its bargaining committee and talking to its members,” said an IBEW Local 213 spokesperson.

“A decision will be made in the next few days.”

IBEW Local 213 workers have been on the picket line since June 26 when FortisBC locked out the members.

FortisBC managers have done the normal union maintenance work since the lockout began.

The lockout has put more than 200 employees (all with FortisBC Electric) — including electricians, linemen, millwrights, meter readers and office staff have from Princeton to Creston and up through the Okanagan Valley to Winfield — on the picket line.

FortisBC and IBEW Local 213 have been without a contract since January 31, 2013.

In spite of what is being viewed as a potential breakthrough in this major labour dispute, IBEW Local 213 remains cautious.

“The difficulty with entering binding arbitration with FortisBC, as shown in earlier rounds, is that the company will bring even more requirements to the table knowing that the arbitrator, in trying to find a middle ground, will be influenced to include almost all of them,” said the IBEW Local 213 spokesperson.

FortisBC tosses ‘Olive Branch’ to IBEW Local 213

There appears to a glimmer of hope, albeit a slight one, in the labour dispute between FortisBC and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Friday, FortisBC tossed out an olive branch to the IBEW Local 213 with an offer of “Binding Interest Arbitration” to solve the five-plus month labour dispute.

“(Friday) FortisBC contacted the IBEW 213 (electric) formally inviting the union to Binding Interest Arbitration,” said FortisBC, Director of Communications Joyce Wagenaar in an email to The Nelson Daily.

“We look forward to the union accepting this offer so that the ongoing labour dispute can come to an end,” Wagenaar added.

The Nelson Daily has attempted to contact Rod Russell, IBEW Assistant Business Manager of IBEW Local 213 to get a comment.

However, Russell and The Nelson Daily have not been able to connect.

FortisBC managers have been performing the work of unionized workers since the company locked out IBEW Local 213 June 26.

More than 200 employees (all with FortisBC Electric) that includes electricians, linemen, millwrights, meter readers and office staff have been affected by the lockout that stretches from Princeton to Creston and up through the Okanagan Valley to Winfield.

FortisBC and IBEW Local 213 have been without a contract since January 31, 2013.

Wagenaar said the decision to enter Binding Interest Arbitration now rests with the union membership.

FortisBC eagerly awaits the decision of IBEW Local 213 negotiators.

Should IBEW Local 213 accept the offer, Wagenaar said union members would then be called back to work as the arbiter creates the framework of what would be the new collective agreement.

“If binding arbitration is accepted, our employees would immediately return to work with the outcome of the arbitration process to follow at a later date,” Wagenaar explained.

“The process of Binding Interest Arbitration would see a third party provide a binding decision on all outstanding items. The arbitrator’s decision would be final and the outcome would become the new collective agreement.”

The IBEW issued a scathing press release after talks last week broke down with FortisBC rejecting three union proposals, referring to FortisBC as the “Grinch” after failing to come to an agreement with Christmas on the horizon.

“For 225 workers across the southern interior who haven’t seen a pay cheque in six months, Christmas is going to be really tough,” Russell said in the release.

“For FortisBC which has saved over $7 million dollars and is only raising rates another 19 percent by 2018, I don’t think Christmas matters much.

“Except of course for its CEO, who will take in another $1.4 million. He’ll certainly be jolly, while his workers are freezing and his customers are paying more.”

Wagenaar said FortisBC has made substantial offers during the five months of bargaining, proposing productivity improvements which would provide additional premium pay with no concessions to wages or benefits.

However, the latest round of negotiations has Wagenaar feeling a third party might be the only way to smooth the waters between the two sides in what has turned into an ugly labour dispute.
 
“We were disappointed that we didn’t reach agreement following two days in bargaining with the IBEW earlier this week,” Wagenaar said.

“It became apparent that a new path was needed to get to a settlement.”
 
“We are optimistic that the union will accept our invitation to participate in the binding interest arbitration – a process that would see our employees immediately return to work,” Wagenaar added.

This post was syndicated from https://thenelsondaily.com
Categories: General

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