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Manitoba Hydro General Strike Averted

March 18, 2021 9:10 AM | News

Hydro Power Lines

Manitoba Hydro power lines are photographed just outside Winnipeg, Monday, May 1, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

WINNIPEG — The union representing Manitoba Hydro electrical workers says it has averted a general strike after being presented with a late-night offer from the Crown corporation.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 2034 said negotiations had broken down with Hydro and its members were prepared to walk at midnight Thursday. The labour action would have impacted around 2,300 employees — some of which have already been participating in rotating strikes the past week.

The union says Manitoba Hydro had ignored its demand to be presented with a final contract offer to its members.

“Our request for Hydro’s ‘final offer’ was an attempt to minimize any disruption of services to the public, and to return stability and predictability to the workplace,” said Mike Espenell, IBEW 2034’s business manager.

In a statement, Manitoba Hydro president and CEO Jay Grewal says that is “categorically untrue.”

“The union would only agree to negotiating an Essential Services Agreement if after 10 days of strike action, the corporation would agree to binding arbitration,” Grewal said.

The union, which has been without a contract since 2018, says negotiations broke down on March 4. Among the demands are a wage increase and a COVID-19 stipend.

With the help of a mediator, a contract offer deadline was agreed upon to be extended to 5 p.m. Wednesday, which then lapsed. Late Wednesday, Hydro extended an offer to the union.

“It’s hoped the IBEW leadership takes the offer to its membership for a vote,” added Grewal. “We understand this is a difficult time for everyone involved. We find ourselves in a position that no one wants to be in. We believe our offer is fair.”

Espenell says although an offer has been presented, no deal has been reached.

“The bargaining committee is currently reviewing the offer, but the committee has indicated that they will be making the recommendation to reject the offer. Ballots are currently being prepared and a vote of the membership will take place in the next couple of days.”