Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 10/8/2013 7:25 PM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 10/9/2013 2:50 PM | Updates
If Manitoba Hydro won’t send a crew to do repairs in Cross Lake First Nation because workers have been threatened, then call the police and deal with it, but don’t leave customers in limbo, says a spokesman for unionized Hydro workers.
"Electricity in Manitoba — especially in northern Manitoba — is an essential service," said Mike Velie, the spokesman for IBEW Local 2034 representing workers who operate, maintain and repair Manitoba Hydro facilities.
"It seems like Manitoba Hydro is playing a bully here."
Velie was responding to reports that Manitoba Hydro has refused to send crews to do repairs in Cross Lake because workers there have been threatened and 281 customers have not paid their bills.
Customers have threatened workers and refused to pay their bills in other places and whole neighbourhoods weren’t punished for it, he said.
"I’ve heard first-hand from people who’ve been threatened," said Velie who worked for Hydro for 22 years. "Typically, authorities get involved whether it’s in Transcona or Fort Garry or Cross Lake that the individuals dealt with," he said.
Having some "difficult customers" in an area shouldn’t prevent Manitoba Hydro from providing services to the good customers living there, Velie said.
"They shouldn’t say ‘We’re no longer going to provide service to Transcona because there’s some difficult customers there,’ " said Velie.
"If any of our members are feeling threatened at all, they can exercise their right to refuse dangerous work," he said.
In this case, he said Hydro should resolve the issue with the authorities and Cross Lake leadership.
It’s not that easy, said a spokesman for Manitoba Hydro.
"We’ve had, at times, a difficult relationship with the community depending on the political leadership," said Glenn Schneider.
The leadership council in power now has told residents not to pay for their electrical power, said Schneider. Using community radio broadcasts, it has told people not to pay their hydro bills, he said. Because of Hydro development, they’re telling band members they shouldn’t have to pay for their electricity, he added.
Schneider said Hydro tried contacting the chief and some members of council on Monday but was unsuccessful. For now, because of unpaid bills and threats, Manitoba Hydro workers won’t be sent into the community, he said. The situation involving one Cross Lake resident without hydro electricity for four days after a transformer fuse blew is "very unfortunate," said Schneider.
"She lives in a community where her political leaders have made decisions she now has to live with."
Schneider said Hydro won’t cut off electricity to customers in the winter but would impose a "limiter" to reduce the amount they receive.
The "load restricting device" offers enough (power) to run the fan on a gas furnace, a light or two and maybe a refrigerator," said Velie.
"I would urge Manitoba Hydro and Cross Lake to resolved their differences — whether it’s through mediation services or through the union with aboriginal elders," he said.
The electrical workers union now has 700 First Nations members and has created the position of "shop elders" to act as cultural liaisons for the aboriginal workers to deal with labour issues, said Velie.
Updated on Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 2:50 PM CDT: Removes reference to Cross Lake chief.
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
First Nation's chief urged to quit over bonus
Gord Steeves proposes selling police HQ and library parkade to raise cash for road repair
Death incites anger
Ducks to retire Selanne's No. 8 jersey
Manitoba weightlifter Marie-Josée Arès-Pilon wins bronze at Glasgow games
Water testing shows beaches are safe for the August long weekend
Chad Posthumus, former River East Kodiak, signs with Japanese basketball team
Goldeyes baseman Casey Haerther named American Association player of the month
Jets sign free-agent Galiardi
Mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus found in Oakbank
Israel pushes deeper in Gaza after soldier seized
Americans with Ebola returning to US for treatment
Battle royal over North End home
Ukraine: Body parts retrieved at jet crash site
Via Rail, CN trains collide east of Kingston
Hackers 'constantly probing' federal computers
Loonie lower, jobs data misses expectations
Robert Kennedy Jr. to marry actress Cheryl Hines
Yellowstone grizzly, people run-ins drop in 2013
Ebola moving faster than control efforts
Error made by dispatcher in professor shooting
'Real Housewife' files defence in libel suit
Obama, Putin discuss Ukraine, missile treaty
Another nail-biter for Blue
Ottawa hails new rail grain shipping rules
Vogiatzakis would give portion of business tax revenue to development group
Accused to stand trial in Saunders death
Missing teen last seen in Tyndall Park area
Girl, 12, not competent for trial in stabbing
Colorado panel considers new look for edible pot
Silva says injured leg is at 95 per cent
Mayoral candidate wants review of road safety
Procter & Gamble to slim down product lineup
Garcia shoots 61 to take Firestone lead
Reopening of major runway bonus for airport, residents
Prosecutor: Peanut plant faked salmonella results
Slight risk of storm in otherwise sunny weekend
Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise departs Russia
Nelson Hart to learn fate next week: Crown