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Union representing laid off Enmax workers files grievance against cuts

The union representing dozens of workers who received pink slips last week from city-owned Enmax has filed a grievance, suggesting the utility axed union jobs while retaining contracted labourers.

According to the grievance, obtained by Postmedia, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 254 was informed last month that the company was restructuring, which would necessitate cuts to unionized staff.

Last Thursday, the company announced 43 front-line workers would be laid off, including electricians, inspectors and power line technicians. The cuts came on the heels of 37 voluntary buyouts last month, representing about 4.5 per cent of the company’s workforce from the restructuring.

The union’s grievance claims Enmax plans to continue to use contractors for operations, now and in the future, a move labour leaders believe is a violation of the collective agreement.

“Enmax is using and plans to further use contractors ‘for work required by the Corporation’ without making ‘every reasonable effort to use Employees for work required by the Corporation, rather than contracting such work,’ ” reads a portion of the grievance.

“Enmax cannot be making ‘any reasonable (or any) effort to use Employees for work required by the Corporation’ when it is in the process of laying off (dismissing) numerous employees.”

In a memo issued to unionized employees last week, Enmax cited the fact that the power delivery business is undergoing significant changes, creating a financially challenging environment that required the company to take action.

“As you are aware, our Power Delivery business is undergoing transformation to respond to the changing world around us and meet the financial challenges ahead,” read the memo.

“Our world is evolving, and in response, we are taking difficult steps in order to continue to meet the performance expectations of our Shareholder, the City of Calgary, and our Regulator.”

An Enmax spokesperson declined to comment on the grievance Wednesday.

Enmax executive vice-president and chief operating officer Dale McMaster said the decision to downsize its labour force was made in response to challenges facing the company’s regulated businesses.

“Like many Alberta companies, we are feeling the impact of current business conditions and have had to make some difficult business choices,” he told Postmedia in a statement in response to the layoffs.

“While we do not discuss personnel matters out of respect for the privacy of employees, our decisions are not taken lightly and steps have been taken to reduce the impact on people, including offering a voluntary departure program late last year.”

The union is demanding Enmax reinstate workers whose jobs were lost to layoffs with full seniority and benefits in order to perform the jobs that are intended for private contractors.

The grievance also calls on the company to pay damages for any losses as well as punitive damages for affected employees.

IBEW 254 business manager John Briegel could not be reached for comment.

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