March 19, 2020 – Local 258 IBEW Business Manager Doug McKay reports he has been engaged in top-level discussions with the provincial government, labour leaders and senior executives at BC Hydro throughout this week and is working diligently to represent members’ best interests, health, safety and financial stability in this rapidly evolving crisis situation taking place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yesterday, the Minister of Public Safety, Mike Farnworth, declared a state of emergency to support the provincewide response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This follows Tuesday’s public health emergency declaration by BC’s provincial heath officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Declaring a state of emergency allows the Province, through the minister, to implement any provincial emergency measures required with access to land and human resource assets that may be necessary to prevent, respond to or alleviate the effects of an emergency. This includes securing the critical supply chains to make sure people have access to essential goods and services, and that infrastructure necessary in a response is readily available.
BC Hydro is a crown corporation and Local 258 IBEW members working at the province’s public utility ensure that electricity, an essential requirement in our civilized society, is secure and available on demand.
“Almost all of our members’ livelihoods, either directly or through contract or supply work, depend on BC Hydro,” says Brother McKay, Local 258 IBEW Business Manager. “We share our members’ concerns as this pandemic turns all of our lives upside down. We are hearing from our members who are expressing frustrations with their employers and we continue to take action. Your Union has reminded our employers they have a responsibility to inform their employees in a timely manner about significant changes in workplaces, in particular with health & safety issues and working conditions. We recognize the transient limitations of some of our employers in responding to the swift developments that are taking place and we are working very hard in our discussions to keep the best interests of our members at the forefront of all decision-making.”
“These are extraordinary and unprecedented times and everyone is working together to get through this,”, says McKay. “Safety remains our priority and I am reminding our members that if you are being asked to perform work that is unsafe you do not have to perform that work.”
Members are reporting, in general, that they are being kept informed and up-to-date by their employers regarding rapid and evolving workplace changes and that their questions and concerns are being effectively managed, in most cases. We are also hearing from members about other issues such as short-notice shift alterations and changes to working conditions that are being taken to accommodate measures being taken during this time of crisis.
McKay adds, “In some instances we have agreed to provide temporary relief to our employers for standby and penalties for shift change on short notice. We want our members to know that these are temporary measures that will not exist after the state of emergency is rescinded. All of our collective agreements remain in place.”
McKay confirms the Union is working on a case by case basis as concerns come to the Local’s attention and effective resolutions to specific issues are being worked out. Local 258 IBEW will be posting further information for members on the password-protected website as it becomes available.
The state of emergency is initially in effect for 14 days, once issued, and may be extended or rescinded as necessary. The state of emergency applies to the whole province and allows federal, provincial and local resources to be delivered in a co-ordinated effort.
If Local 258 IBEW members have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your Union directly. As the Union office remains closed to visitors, staff are working to serve members. Log-in to the password-protected website for staff contact information, phone direct to the Union switchboard at 604-520-3305 or toll free 1-877-520-3305, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.