Ontario government to reconvene Monday in effort to prevent OPG workers' strike
Chris Herhalt, CP24.com
Published Friday, December 14, 2018 11:58AM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 14, 2018 8:27PM EST
The Ford government said it will reconvene the House over Christmas break in order to prevent a strike by unionized workers at Ontario Power Generation, which could cause widespread power losses after about one week.
Government House Leader Todd Smith said in a statement issued on Friday night that “uncertainty” between Ontario Power Generation and the Power Workers’ Union (PWU) has forced the government to reconvene at 1 p.m. on Monday to introduce legislation ensuring workers remain on the job.
Members of the PWU have been working without a contract since March 31 and recently rejected what Ontario Power Generation (OPG) deemed as a final offer.
Just before Smith’s announcement, unionized employees at Ontario Power Generation received a strike notice for a 21-day period.
“OPG cares about safety and working conditions for all of its employees and will continue to move forward in a thoughtful and respectful manner that also ensures the safety of all Ontarians while recognizing the fiscal realities of the company and the province of Ontario,” OPG president and CEO Jeff Lyash said in a statement.
“Our goal was to negotiate a fair and reasonable agreement with PWU, which we believe we did in June. We continue to be willing to go to arbitration to secure an agreement.”
Energy Minister Greg Rickford said on Friday that any strike will result in blackouts or brownouts seven to 10 days after it starts.
“Seven to 10 days would be our first potential scenario for an interruption,” he said.
The outages would start in the Greater Golden Horseshoe and spread to “farther reaches of the province” afterwards, Rickford said.
The legislature rose on Dec. 6 and was previously not scheduled to resume activity until February.
If passed, back-to-work legislation would push OPG and the union into binding arbitration.
The bill could take three or four days or longer to pass, depending on how the Official Opposition NDP responds.
Question Period would occur for the first time in the new sitting on Tuesday morning.
The union said Thursday it would hold a meeting Friday to prepare for “safe shut down” of generation facilities in the event of a strike.
“The main bargaining committee will be meeting on Dec. 14 to initiate a notice to begin a 21-day ‘safe shut down’ period in preparation for shutting down power production. PWU members will continue to fulfill their responsibilities in compliance with all safety guidelines in preparation for job action.”
Rickford said workers reported to their posts Friday as expected and there is a “calm environment” throughout.
PWU represents 5,900 workers in OPG’s fleet of nuclear facilities as well as non-nuclear facilities, such as natural gas plants and hydroelectric dams.
The Independent Electricity System Operator said that on the current timeline, OPG’s large nuclear and hydroelectric plants could shut down in about three weeks.
“At that point Ontario would not have the generation needed to meet consumer demand and customers would begin losing power.”
Itsaid there are some measures they can take to mitigate the impact to the power supply, but they would not be able to eliminate the possibility of outages.
“Planned generator outages will be deferred, operating reserves will be utilized, and there will be increased use of the gas fleet and energy imports from our neighbours. However, these actions will not be enough to prevent significant losses of power.”
Rickford said he was not emphasizing the possible loss of power as a bargaining tactic.
“I’m not thumping my chest and I don’t believe anybody else is. We have a responsibility to let Ontario know we are going to work through a process swiftly.”
Rickford said the last time workers in power plants engaged in job action that resulted in supply issues was in 1985.