Essex Power workers picket town hall

By Joel Charron

Essex Power workers who are out of work after being locked out, showed their frustration by picketing outside Town Hall Wednesday afternoon.

The lockout took effect at 12:01 a.m. April 7 after Essex Power management believed an impasse was reached. The two sides began exchanging offers in January, had five bargaining sessions in February, went through conciliation and mediation in March and failed to come up with an agreement.

“We responded to the best and final offer twice and they said we disregarded both,” said Brian Manninger, business representative for IBEW Local 636.

Manninger said they are “ready and willing” to head back to the bargaining table any time.

“The ball is in their court,” Manninger said.

Manninger mentioned there is a lack of relationship between the two sides, which Manninger said they take some responsibility for the disconnect. However, over the last three years Local 636 has offered cost share in a relationship building exercise offered by the Ministry of Labour, but was rejected both times by Essex Power.

“That shows us that they have no willingness to repair the relationship and get on with good labour relations,” said Manninger.

Twelve year Essex Power line worker, Mike Rose said the lockout is “very frustrating” because the workers want to be at the table negotiating.

“This was not something that any one was looking forward to,” said Rose. “There are issues that we feel need to be addressed. We don’t think that they are too outrageous.”

Rose, who is married with three daughters, ages, 13, 3 and 1, said  if this were a strike, workers would receive some sort of “strike pay” however with Essex Power workers being locked out they receive no pay.  Although, his family had prepared for the lockout, Rose mentioned things may get a little tight.

“I may not be as hard pinched as others but without that weekly paycheck it’s tough,” he said. “It makes you start looking for something else on an afternoon or midnight shift to subsidize what you’re missing. It makes everything a lot tougher.”

NDP MP candidate Taras Natyshak showed up to show his support for Local 636.

“These workers have been locked out and due process has not taken place here,” said Natyshak.

Natyshak urged for Essex Power’s negotiating team to get back to the table and work out a deal.

“Every job is important and every hour worked returns back to the community. It’s incumbent upon the negotiating team on the side of Essex Power Corporation to get back to the table and negotiate in good faith.”

Natyshak also added he hopes a deal can be reached before storm season is upon the region.

“We all saw what happened to Leamington last year when tornados ripped through that community. It was these workers who put in their time to make sure services got back up in a timely manner and made sure the communities were taken care of.”

Joe Barlie, human resources, legal and regulatory advisor to Essex Power said issue that arise from customers during the lockout will be performed by qualified management personnel on a priority basis.

Barlie also said he would not discuss details of the lockout with the media.

“It’s been our position during the lockout to not discuss any of the details of the negotiation through the media,” said Barlie.

Barlie added that there are no negotiation talks scheduled at this time.

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