BC Hydro electrical workers open door to strike after rejecting tentative agreement

BC Hydro crews work to restore power after a windstorm in December 2018. Global News

The union representing BC Hydro electrical workers has rejected a tentative contract agreement with the public utility, opening the door to possible job action.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 258 said it counted the mail-in ballots from members Wednesday, and that 63 per cent of voters rejected the deal.

“Our members have sent a clear message and we will be reaching out to our members in the next few days to discuss the next steps,” the union’s business manager Doug McKay said in a statement.

McKay did not say what those next steps could be, but a union member who spoke with Global News on condition of anonymity said a strike could be possible.

READ MORE: B.C. Hydro rates set to go up 8.1 per cent over the next five years

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The union represents over 2,000 trades workers for BC Hydro, who have been without a contract since the beginning of April 2019.

A tentative deal was reached in December after months of negotiating, but McKay warned at the time that the province’s bargaining mandate for public sector workers prevented the union from negotiating beyond a two-per cent annual wage increase.

Despite that, McKay said in an earlier statement the union had secured “significant contract language improvements as well as benefit increases in a three-year agreement.”

The union has not shared the exact details of the tentative agreement, or the reasons why it was rejected.

READ MORE: B.C. teachers reject mediator’s recommendations for contract settlement with employer

Global News has reached out to McKay and the union for comment.

A spokesperson for BC Hydro said the utility does not anticipate the rejection will have any impact on operations or on BC Hydro customers, who make up a vast majority of B.C. residents.

“We’re committed to continuing to work with IBEW leadership on an agreement,” BC Hydro said.

The province’s bargaining mandate has been a sticking point for B.C. teachers, who say it stands in the way of raising wages to a level that can attract out-of-province hires and fix a critical teacher shortage.

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Global Exclusive: Behind the scenes at BC Hydro’s storm training – Dec 13, 2017

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