*Revised* FORTISBC Common Employer LRB Q&A
May 5, 2020
To: All MoveUP Members at FBC Inc. & FEI Inc.
The Parties have now presented their opening submissions to the BC Labour Board (LRB) and now await the response from the LRB as to timelines. Currently, it has been agreed to present our case by way of written submissions.
Many of you have approached us with questions about your employer’s application to the Labour Relations Board to merge the electrical (FortisBC Inc.) and gas (FortisBC Energy Inc.) bargaining units.
We have put together the Q&A below to address some of your questions about the employer’s application and what that means to the bargaining units at electrical and gas.
I thought voting ‘no’ on the Amalgamated Collective Agreement meant we did not want one single agreement. Why is the employer permitted to apply for it even though we voted ‘no’?
The vote on the Amalgamated Collective Agreement was on whether or not members accepted the terms. However, as we indicated throughout the process, amalgamation itself was something that the employer was planning to pursue either way.
Why does the employer want to amalgamate?
FortisBC has a strategy to adapt to a rapidly-changing energy sector that includes eliminating some of the “silos” within its operation. The company has been quietly implementing this on a piecemeal basis for the last several years, by increasing the scale of “shared services” between the utilities.
Why did the employer not just apply right away to the LRB?
The employer decided that giving some ground to the workforce in order to achieve their adaption strategies is a price they are prepared to pay. They also appear to realize that having a workforce that sees gains from amalgamation is far better for morale and productivity than if they force their own version down your throats unilaterally. Your union was happy to have the opportunity to be engaged in that process even if, ultimately, our members chose to vote down the proposed Amalgamated Collective Agreement.
Can our union oppose the merging process at the LRB?
Although we cannot stop the employer from filing a common employer application, we have submitted an application to oppose it.
What contract will we get after it is merged?
With our membership voting down the proposed amalgamated collective agreement, it will fall on the LRB to make a ruling based on the terms the employer will propose. Our hope is that, given the work that was put in to creating the proposed Amalgamated Collective Agreement by the members of your amalgamation committee, that your employer will use that as its template as we feel the terms of that proposed agreement are in the best interest of all our members in both bargaining units.
However, since it is now in the hands of the employer in their application, the terms they propose may be ones that suit their needs best and it will be up to the LRB to make a ruling on whether those terms are fair. Unfortunately, because of the failed vote, this is now out of our hands.
With a merged contract, when is the next time we will be able to open bargaining?
While the existing collective agreement for the electrical unit expired at the end of 2019, the existing collective agreement for the gas unit is in effect until June 30, 2023.
The feedback we were hearing from our members during the process of crafting an amalgamated collective agreement was that our members wanted to open up bargaining, even though we had indicated to them that the amalgamation process was not “bargaining” but rather about selecting the superior terms in the two respective collective agreements to form the basis of a single collective agreement.
In our response to the LRB, we will make it clear that our membership has indicated they are opposed to the concept of a single bargaining unit and would like to open bargaining at the earliest opportunity. However, the LRB may rule that the terms of the new single collective agreement can run through until the end June 30, 2023 as would have been the case with the existing gas collective agreement.
Cindy A. Lee, Union Representative
Rysa Kronebusch, MoveUP Vice President – Utilities