Bill to keep power on becomes law

(File photo courtesy ©Can Stock Photo Inc. / jirsak)

A bill to keep unionized hydro workers on the job has passed in the Ontario Legislature.

The Ford government had recalled the Legislature ahead of the holidays to introduce back-to-work legislation for Ontario Power Generation (OPG) workers. Strike notice was given last week by the Power Workers’ Union (PWU), which would have meant a shut down of OPG’s nuclear reactors at Darlington and Pickering. OPG produces approximately half of the electricity in Ontario.

Bill 67, the Labour Relations Amendment Act (Protecting Ontario’s Power Supply), was passed during Thursday’s session.

“Despite delay tactics and political games putting our electricity supply at risk in the heart of winter, the Legislature has passed Bill 67, preventing large-scale power outages across Ontario,” as stated in a release sent from Laurie Scott, Minister of Labour and Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines.

A previous collective agreement between the OPG and PWU had expired on March 31. Since then, a collective agreement has not been reached.

“The passage of Bill 67 removes the risk of widespread power outages and allows a dispute resolution to happen appropriately. The amendments to the Labour Relations Act, 1995 prohibit and stop any strikes or lockouts between OPG and PWU for the current round of bargaining,” the joint statement said. “All matters in dispute will be referred to a neutral mediator-arbitrator for a fair dispute resolution process.”

After the bill was passed, the OPG issued a statement which said it would continue working towards an agreement with the PWU. Meanwhile, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) issued a release calling the decision to pass Bill 67 “extremely disappointing.”

“If the government won’t end its attack on workers’ rights in Ontario, then CUPE and our 258,000 members province-wide will mobilize to ensure our constitutional rights are respected,” said CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury in a statement.

-With files from Kirk Dickinson