More than 1,000 white-collar workers at Manitoba Telecom Services have overwhelmingly voted to give the negotiating committee a strike mandate.
On Friday, TEAM-IFPTE Local 161 (Telecommunication Employees Association of Manitoba-International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers) members voted 82.8 per cent in favour of a strike mandate.
Bob Linsdell, the executive director of the local, said they have been in contract negotiations since early in the year.
"Negotiations have not gone well," Linsdell said. "We feel the company has not been taking us seriously."
The two sides are already in conciliation and cannot legally go on strike until July 16. The union has to give the company 72 hours notice before going on strike.
An MTS official speaking on behalf of the company said, "MTS is bargaining in good faith with TEAM and our goal is to bring the collective-bargaining process to a positive conclusion as soon as possible. We are working towards reaching a fair and equitable agreement and look forward to returning to the bargaining table next week."
Linsdell said the company has already threatened to terminate the collective agreement, something it is legally able to do.
He said wages and benefits are the key issues.
In 2010-11, the union agreed to a contract with zero per cent wage increase the first year and two per cent the next. Union members are also seeking vision care as part of employee benefits.
"This is the first time in 40 years that this local has taken a strike vote," Linsdell said. "I think it was a bit of shock to the company."