The union that represents front-line electrical workers at Manitoba Hydro has declared a general strike effective Wednesday night.

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This article was published 17/3/2021 (308 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The union that represents front-line electrical workers at Manitoba Hydro has declared a general strike effective Wednesday night.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 2034, which represents 2,300 employees, said it took the action after the Crown corporation failed to respond to its demand that it be presented with a "final offer" that it could present to its members for a vote.

In recent days, the IBEW had conducted limited rotating strikes and staged a protest at the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Talks between Hydro and the union broke down March 4, IBEW said in a news release late Wednesday. Wages have been the main stumbling block.

The workers have been without a contract for more than 26 months. 

"It’s extremely unfortunate that Manitoba Hydro has left IBEW with no alternative but to take this strike action," the union's business manager, Mike Espenell, said. "In order to get a fair agreement for our members, it appears that Hydro is prepared to inconvenience and put Manitobans at risk. We find that completely irresponsible."

Hydro has offered zero per cent increases for 2019 and 2020, and a 0.75 per cent wage boost for the current year — in line with government guidelines for the bargaining of new public-sector contracts.

The union said it is also angry its members were forced to take three unpaid days off — or face layoffs. It wants those paid days restored, as well as wage increases similar to those paid to other company employees (1.5 per cent in 2019 and 1.25 per cent in 2020).

Espenell said Hydro, which expects to post a $111-million profit for the current fiscal year, can afford to pay the increases.

The general strike will take effect at 11:59 p.m.

Manitoba Hydro said Wednesday evening it had tabled a final offer to the union.

"It’s hoped the IBEW leadership takes the offer to its membership for a vote," said Jay Grewal, president and CEO of Manitoba Hydro. "We understand this is a difficult time for everyone involved. We find ourselves in a position that no one wants to be in. We believe our offer is fair."

Grewal said she wants Manitobans to know the utility has contingency plans to ensure it can continue to provide its essential and emergency service to customers.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.