IBEW Local 213 members return to work at FortisBC Friday
Some of the more than 200 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 213 members manning the picket lines since June 26 return to work Friday, following 177-days of being off the job due to the FortisBC lockout.
“The majority of the workers are coming back to work Friday (December 20) but in some instances, we are bringing people back to help prepare for the workforce return,” FortisBC Director of Communications Joyce Wagenaar told The Nelson Daily.
The almost six-month lockout ended Monday (December 16) when the two sides reached an agreement to end the labour dispute through “Binding Interest Arbitration”.
The process was offered to the IBEW Local 213 as a way to solve the nasty dispute by FortisBC after the two sides reached an impasse on a few critical issues.
IBEW Local 213 represents FortisBC Electrical workers, including electricians, linemen, millwrights, meter readers and office staff 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.
After months of bargaining resulted in no deal, Fortis BC locked out IBEW Local 213 in late June as a result of work slowdown by the union and concern over safety.
Twice during the lockout the union membership voted on tentative deals. And twice the membership rejected the offers.
In December, after the two sides once again failed to reach an agreement on come contentious issues, the company proposed the “Binding Interest Arbitration” in an attempt to put an end to this labour dispute.
The IBEW Local 213 bargaining committee countered the “Binding Interest Arbitration” offer by FortisBC with the two sides reaching an agreement to end the lockout Tuesday.
“We’re looking to have the vast amount of workers return to work Friday and gradually get the workforce and everything up and running as soon as possible,” Wagenaar explained.
“It’s a unique time of year with the holidays happening but we’re working to schedule people back and to see the bulk of the workers come back for Friday,” Wagenaar added.
News of the end to the labour dispute is great for customers looking to have power poles erected and lines connected to new construction.
However, Wagenaar cautions customers to remain patient during the resumption of operations.
“I think for those customers (waiting for projects to be completed) we want to have discussions with them on the one-on-one basis and take a look at what resources we have, what works and what we can do and work with those folks directly,” Wagenaar said.
Binding Interest Arbitration is an established labour practice, which sees a neutral third party resolve the outstanding issues between the two parties.
The company invited the IBEW 213 (electric) to Binding Interest Arbitration on December 6.
The union provided a counter proposal, which led to discussions and a final agreement Monday (December 16).
Representatives from the IBEW Local 213 and FortisBC will appear in front of arbitrator Dalton Larson sometime in January 2014 to argue their case.