Hydro Workers rally outside city hall as strike enters its 12th week

September 14, 2023

About 150 striking Hydro Ottawa workers rallied outside City Hall Wednesday as their strike entered its 12th week.

“It sucks,” was the blunt assessment of Mike Hall, a business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and a member of Local 636’s bargaining unit.

Talks between the union and the city-owned power utility broke off on Aug. 23, but the two sides met on Monday with the help of non-binding mediation, and Hall said the only outstanding issue is pay.

“I would say we’re close. In the beginning, there were a boatload of issues, but right now it’s compensation. And I’d say we were close.”

IBEW Local 636 represents about 400 trades and technical Hydro Ottawa employees and inside workers such as customer service representatives. Their contract expired on March 31.

City council was to have received Hydro Ottawa’s annual report Wednesday, but at the utility’s request deferred the report until its Oct. 25 meeting because of the strike.

In an emailed statement Wednesday, Hydro Ottawa said its “focus remains on our day-to-day operations, and making every effort to minimize the impact of this labour disruption on our customers.

“Hydro Ottawa continues to respect the collective bargaining process, including negotiating in good faith. Until an agreement is reached, our contingency plans remain in effect, and our commitment remains the same: providing a safe, reliable, affordable and renewable supply of electricity to our customers.”

The utility’s most recent offer was a cumulative wage increase of 14.74 per cent over four years, something it called “very generous in comparison to recent industry trends.”

Hall, however, said Hydro Ottawa was the most difficult employer of any of the 13 IBEW contracts he has negotiated.

“I have peace everywhere but here. My only problem is here in Ottawa,” Hall said.

“It’s old-school thinking. They think if they have lots of grievances they’re managing their people properly. But how is that 2023 thinking? In all my other employers, the goal is zero grievances.”

It is the first strike at Hydro Ottawa since 2004.

article by Blair Crawford, Ottawa Citizen

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