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FortisBC applies to BC Labour Relations Board to have certain work functions designated as essential

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - Utilities

FortisBC has filed an application to have certain work functions designated as essential services under the BC Labour Relations Code.

This is the second BC utility to file such an application in the last few months. Back in April 2012, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia ("ICBC") - the province's "basic insurance" vehicle insurer - also filed an essential services application. More information about that application, including the application itself,  can be found on COPE 378's website here.

FortisBC's May 31, 2012 news release states as follows:

FortisBC has applied to the BC Labour Relations Board to have certain work functions designated as essential, after the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, (IBEW) local 213, served the company with strike notice. There is no strike action taking place at this time and all FortisBC services are operating as usual.

Essential services are those the Labour Relations Board considers necessary or essential to prevent immediate and serious danger to the health, safety or welfare of the residents of British Columbia.

FortisBC's primary focus is on the ongoing safety of its operations and the public, while ensuring a reliable supply of natural gas to all customers.

FortisBC will hold discussions with its unions regarding an essential services plan. Until the plan is complete and approved by the Labour Relations Board, no strike action can legally occur.

Once the essential services order is received by the company, if the union wishes to continue with job action, it then has the option to issue 72-hour notice for job action. FortisBC has a contingency plan in place to deal with various forms of job action.

FortisBC did present an offer to the IBEW 213 that is market-competitive and consistent with other compensation and benefits within FortisBC. This included overall enhancements to the employees' total compensation including wages. FortisBC continues to remain available to reach an agreement through negotiation.

The current contract with the IBEW expired March 31, 2011. FortisBC has been focused over the last year on reaching a fair settlement for our natural gas field employees that balances the interests of our customers and employees through ongoing contract negotiations with the IBEW.

The IBEW 213 represents FortisBC employees working primarily in gas distribution and transmission including functions such as installations, emergency response and the repair and maintenance of the gas pipeline system.