More than 200 Manitoba Hydro employees are expected to walk off the job Friday when the union representing natural gas workers goes on strike.

More than 200 Manitoba Hydro employees are expected to walk off the job Friday when the union representing natural gas workers goes on strike.

Members of Unifor Local 681 will begin the strike at 11:30 a.m.; a picket and rally will be held at the Crown corporation’s head office on Portage Avenue Friday afternoon.

"Premier Heather Stefanson is repeating the mistakes of Brian Pallister," Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle said in a news release Thursday. "The disrespect her government has shown for hard-working Manitoba Hydro workers is at the heart of this job action."

Adrien Sala, the NDP critic for Manitoba Hydro, and Unifor Local 681 president Victor Diduch are scheduled to speak at the rally.

The union says 230 gas workers across Manitoba have been without a collective agreement since December 2020. Negotiations between the union and Manitoba Hydro began in September 2021.

"Our strike is a last resort, but we’re prepared to stand up for the fair contract our members have earned," McGarrigle said.

Suzanne King, a national representative for Unifor, said natural gas workers want a wage increase equivalent to electrical workers who are doing "essentially the same job."

The union asked for a 3.8 per cent wage increase in 2021 with a "fair wage increase" in following years, King said. The Crown corporation has offered a "very minimal increase," with 0.5 per cent increase in 2021 followed by 1.5 per cent increases from 2022 to 2024, King said.

"We’ve reached an impasse. We’ve reached a point where what they’re offering is not what we’re willing to accept," King said.

Emergency natural gas response will continue and non-emergency services will be delayed during job action, Manitoba Hydro said.

"Customers should know that Manitoba Hydro has a contingency plan in place to respond to natural gas emergencies and protect public safety during the strike, including responding to natural gas leaks or other emergency repairs," it said in a release.

During the strike, customers may have to reschedule appliance inspections and meter exchanges. Customers who call Manitoba Hydro regarding natural gas water heaters, ranges, dryers or furnaces will be told to contact an appliance dealer or repair shop, the release stated.

"Manitoba Hydro remains committed to continuing discussions with Unifor and the collective bargaining process," the release said. "Our goal is to conclude negotiations as soon as possible to minimize the impact on our customers."

— Staff