January 13, 2015, Burnaby, BC - In a Statement of Claim filed with the BC Supreme Court on December 12, 2014, Local 258 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers launched legal proceedings against BC Hydro and Power Authority and the Government of British Columbia. The claim alleges the Public Sector Employers' Council has become so involved in collective bargaining that the Union is prevented from any real negotiations, ultimately violating the Charter rights of union members.
Local 258 IBEW represents more than two thousand members employed at BC Hydro as skilled tradespeople. The Union has been trying to reach a renewal collective agreement with the Crown Corporation since before the contract expired on March 31, 2014.
"We believe this employer, whom we have been trying to negotiate a new collective agreement with for the past year, is being unfairly restrained by the Government of British Columbia through the Public Sector Employers Council," says Doug McKay, Business Manager of Local 258. "Our members' right to engage in free collective bargaining with their employer, BC Hydro, is being denied."
McKay says the Union has tried to bargain on numerous occasions but "it's clear that Hydro's hands are tied." Representatives from BC Hydro seem unable to table a proposal, or accept a counter proposal, unless PSEC has given their prior approval. Perhaps more importantly, BC Hydro refuses to bargain: the term of the collective agreement; any cost of living increases; and when those inflationary wage increases will roll out. BC Hydro is forced to lock-step with other public sector employers who have followed PSEC's dictates.
"We anticipate there will be strong opposition to our court challenge, especially now when contracts have been renewed at other public sector bargaining tables. But that's part of the point, why can't we bargain the term of our agreement? Why can't we bargain wage increases and when they'll roll out? These are the main things we do at the table," says Business Manager Doug McKay.
Local 258 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers was chartered in 1967 and currently represents more than forty-five hundred members working across British Columbia in the electric utility, private power line, utility arborist, traffic control and electrical manufacturing industries.