A statement from Hydro Ottawa's President and CEO on the current labour disruption
Ottawa, Ontario - August 11, 2023 - Today marks day 45 since Hydro Ottawa’s employees represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) rejected what I viewed as fair, responsible and competitive offers and headed out onto the picket lines. While I was sincerely hoping for an agreement, I respect their legal right to strike.
I was pleased when we were able to return to the bargaining table last month. We were quickly able to hear from the IBEW about safety and we reaffirmed our commitment to continuously improving our safety programs and culture. We were also able to address the union’s demands to increase a number of benefits, allowances and premiums. This left wages, which has been the main issue since the strike began and the focus of our discussions for the better part of the last month.
I am sharing this information through this letter because the union has published communications stating that they are taking “a stand for fair wages and health benefits, improved safety and a lot less workplace toxicity”. They published this statement as recently as this week. We have addressed all of these points. The strike is now about wages.
We believe that our last offer on wages is very fair and very generous. Our last offer provides for annual percentage increases of 4.0%, 3.0%, 3.0%, 3.0%, and 2.75% which, considered cumulatively over the 5 years, amounts to a 16.77% increase in wage rates or an average of 3.35% per year. There is also the potential for increases of up to 1% over the final two years of the contract which could result in a cumulative increase in wage rates of almost 18% over the 5-year term. This last offer was one of four separate offers tabled to the union over the last month in the hopes of securing an end to this labour disruption.
I believe that this offer is fair not only to our employees, but to our customers. As a regulated business, we have a responsibility to negotiate a balanced and responsible agreement which recognizes our employees’ contributions while also ensuring affordable electricity rates for our customers.
Our offers have been rejected by the IBEW, as is their legal right to do so. We respect their right to engage in labour action and peaceful picketing. At the same time, we look forward to the day when this strike is over and I am able to welcome our striking employees back to work.
I recognize that this strike has come at a time when storms are prevalent. For those of you who may be keeping track, Ottawa has been hit by three major storms since Canada Day, including multiple tornados. This has been an extremely active summer for storms and, unfortunately, likely a sign of things to come.
Our mandate is to provide safe, reliable, affordable and renewable supply of electricity to our customers. While our employees remain on strike, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and thank our management crews, contractors and all the teams who support them, for their ongoing commitment to our customers, our company and our community.
Bryce Conrad, President and Chief Executive Officer
Manager, Media and Public Affairs
Hydro Ottawa Holding Inc.