FortisBC workers in our area continue to be locked out of their jobs. The company has been hiding behind a government imposed, Essential Services Order (ESO) and twisted it to allow them punish their unionized workforce and operate with little change to their profits. They have been able to by-pass BC labour laws that were enacted to prevent situations like this; where a large company tries to weaken the union and bully its workforce into unreasonable concessions, without any consequences to their operations.
The company seems to be completely unreasonable and unwilling to engage in bargaining with its workers. They feel they have the right to, “Do What Ever They Want” filling positions with management, contracting out work and calling select workers back to work in emergency situations when they need to. So far, they have been allowed to act without damaging their reputation, profits or stock value. They have no desire to find a middle ground in this dispute and are unwilling even to come to the table with the same deal that they have already agreed to with their gas workers. This is not bargaining in good faith!
On a positive note, after appeals to the BC Labour relations board, some changes have been made to original ESO, which will put pressure on the company to come back to bargaining and finally settle this dispute.
Electrical generation in the area has been deemed “Nonessential” since electricity can be purchased from elsewhere. This should force FortisBC to pay for more expensive power from the grid to supply to its customers.
They have been ordered to stop using contract workers to fill essential positions such as, brush clearing and line locators. So, all jobs requiring workers to be called in for emergency or essential work must be filled by union workers and workers will not have to have management members or outside contractors working with them on call outs.
All available locked out employees, (rather than just a few in positions deemed essential) will be placed on the standby list to perform essential work and will be scheduled for at least one standby shift per month. This will force the company to resume paying for benefits to everyone and give a bit of an income for all of the members that can be rotated through the standby schedule. This will go some way towards easing the financial burden being felt by the workers.
It is shameful that FortisBC has been allowed to pull the tricks that is has in this ordeal. They have continuously refused to budge on their position, walked out of mediation, twisted the Essential Services Order, and used scab labour to bypass the bargaining process. FortisBC started this dispute and they have the power to end it and allow workers to return to their jobs. However, the company is choosing to continue to make its unionized work force suffer needlessly. We need to act to stop this kind of behaviour. We need to show our support for our neighbors, and fellow union members.
Send letters to FortisBC demanding that they return to the bargaining table, send letters to the BC Utilities Commission to complain about how poorly this utility is treating its workers and how it is trying to gain an unfair market advantage.
Show your support by coming out to the BBQ rally Sept 25 th at the Steelworkers Hall, Trail. Rally Starts at 3:00 pm with BBQ to follow.
Most of all keep informed in this ongoing dispute, if FortisBC gets away with this kind of stunt it will open the door for others to try as well.
Here is the contact information for FortisBC, if you are still a FortisBC customer quote your account number for more effect.
Here is a direct e-mail to the BC Utilities Commission. Ensure you refer to your message as a “’letter of comment’ on FortisBC Inc”., “Fortis Electric rate hearing or Performance Based Ratemaking (PBR)”, or words to that effect.