Manitoba Hydro workers just looking for fair process: union rep

Manitoba Hydro power lines are photographed just outside Winnipeg in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

More than 2,300 Manitoba Hydro employees could go on strike as early as Tuesday.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) 2034 delivered a 48-hour strike notice to the Crown corporation on Sunday, and in a memo to members, noted that if strike action becomes necessary, Hydro will only receive a two-hour heads-up before labour action begins.

The union’s business manager, Mike Espenell, told 680 CJOB they’re just looking for a fair process.

Read more: Manitoba Hydro served with 48-hour strike notice from union

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“We’ve been going at this bargaining for about 28 months now with little to no forward progress,” Espenell said.

“It’s become very clear that there’s been a lot of interference through this negotiating process. We just want to be able to bargain an agreement with Manitoba Hydro freely.”

According to the union’s website, the Hydro employees operate, maintain and repair all of Manitoba Hydro’s facilities — everything from the large generating stations to the trucks.

Espenell said should a strike take place, the specifics have yet to be hammered out… but Manitobans likely wouldn’t see a change in their Hydro service.

“It’s unclear at this point what a strike action would look like, but we represent about 2,300 members,” he said.

“Depending on the reliability of the system at the time and how competent the individuals are running our generating stations and our transmission grid and our distribution grid… I would say Manitobans would maybe see no change until something goes wrong.”

Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton said he urges both sides of the debate to come up with a solution together.

“Our government’s broad mandates continue to reflect the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, as we successfully balance the interests of public sector employees and all Manitoba taxpayers, while largely avoiding layoffs,” said Wharton in a statement Monday.

“We appreciate the cooperation of all public sector employers, unions and employees during these difficult times, and would respectfully urge these particular parties to find common ground through ongoing bargaining efforts.”

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Manitoba Hydro and Espenell both say they’re hoping for a productive meeting on Tuesday.

“While we remain hopeful that a strike can be avoided, Manitoba Hydro has developed and implemented contingency plans to help ensure emergency and essential services, as well as public safety, are maintained throughout any labour disruption,” a Hydro spokesperson said in an email Monday afternoon.

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