Essex Power union fails to present before council

By Karen Fallon

A legal opinion was sought after a motion put forward by councillor Diane Pouget to hear a delegation, not listed on the agenda, by Essex Power was passed at last Monday’s meeting.

Despite a warning by Mayor Wayne Hurst that council should not be involved in a labour dispute in an open session, all of council, except for Hurst and councillors Robert Pillon and John Sutton, agreed with Pouget’s motion to allow Brian Manninger, business representative for IBEW Local 636, to speak on behalf of the union workers.

“Let me give you some guidance,” counselled Hurst. “They are in negotiations and in this chamber one of the things you don’t do is bring in, I don’t care if it is the union or the corporation, to give expression on what is happening in negotiations.”

“If that is the intent – of the delegation – I would advise council against that.” He added.

Essex Power locked out 35 employees represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 636 early on April 7.

The lockout took effect after talks which had been taking place since January broke down between the corporation and the union.

Following the motion’s passing the council session was brought to an abrupt halt as administration sought a legal opinion on the situation.

After a 13 minute break, Hurst reappeared in council chambers and advised that the town’s solicitor had “strongly urged” that the issue not be heard in open council.

Hurst noted that: “an issue such as this should not be

heard in a public forum” as it would be interfering with the collective bargaining process. Also, there was nothing to be gained by listening to such a delegation speak and it would be precedent setting.

Council, says Pouget, was not informed by the mayor who is Amherstburg’s municipal representative on the Board of Directors for Essex Power, of the walk out.

“We were unaware that people were going to be locked out,” said Pouget. “Those people are supposed to be there to protect us, for our citizens, our homes, our businesses. If we loose power we don’t even know what our contingency plan is.”

Pouget says she discovered the information of a possible resulting power outage via a letter from the union.

After much discussion Councillor Carolyn Davies put forward a motion to rescind the former motion which was also seconded by Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland.

The motion which resulted in the delegation not being heard was passed.

Although another component to Davies’ motion to hear from representatives from both the union and the corporation at an in-camera session was dropped.

Manninger, says it wasn’t his intent to put people in a difficult situation.

All we were looking to speak to was what was released to the public today and ask for help to get Essex Power back to the bargaining table, he said.

“We need Essex Power to ask us back to the table,” said Manninger.

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