FortisBC and union end labour dispute after agreeing to binding arbitration

By on December 18, 2013
Locked out IBEW workers (from left) Ed Marbach, Kurtis Kriese, and John Shiers are shown picketing in front of the FortisBC office in Oliver two months ago. These three men and their unionized colleagues will return to work Friday after the union and FortisBC agreed to binding arbitration on Monday. (File photo Lyonel Doherty)

Locked out IBEW workers (from left) Ed Marbach, Kurtis Kriese, and John Shiers are shown picketing in front of the FortisBC office in Oliver two months ago. These three men and their unionized colleagues will return to work Friday after the union and FortisBC agreed to binding arbitration on Monday. (File photo Lyonel Doherty)

FortisBC and the employees’ union have made holiday peace by ending the labour dispute with “binding interest arbitration.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW 213) informed the utility that it has accepted the company’s invitation to move forward with binding arbitration. This established labour practice sees a neutral third party resolve the outstanding issues between the two parties.

The company invited IBEW 213 to binding arbitration on December 6. The union provided a counter proposal, which led to discussions and a final agreement on December 16.

“Relief is a great way to put it. Relief there is closure, and relief that employees are going back to work,” said Rod Russell, assistant business manager of IBEW 213.

But he expressed his disappointment about not being able to reach a ratified agreement, noting that whatever the third party decides, that’s what goes.

“You’re putting your destiny into the hands of that party,” Russell said.

He called the six-month lockout a bitter dispute that was devastating to workers, some of whom terminated their employment because of it.

“But now it’s time for both parties to work on their relationship,” said Russell, who noted that some relationships will never be the same.

Russell indicated that the bulk of employees will be back to work by Friday.

Michael Mulcahy, FortisBC’s executive vice-president of human resources, said the company is pleased that the union leadership has accepted the invitation for binding arbitration.

“This is a positive step. We’ll be welcoming our employees back in the coming days and now both parties can start to move forward,” said Mulcahy.

FortisBC employees will return to work under the terms of the expired collective agreement.

The binding interest arbitration process will begin at a later date, with the outcome resulting in a new collective agreement.

Both sides said they hope that the binding arbitration meetings can begin early in the new year so that a new collective agreement can be finalized sooner than later.

LYONEL DOHERTY

Special to the Times

 

 

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