The countdown toward a possible strike at Nova Scotia Power has begun now that a conciliator's report is in.
Oct. 20 is the earliest date workers could strike or be locked out. About 1,000 unionized workers will vote on the company's last offer on Oct. 10.
The union representing NS Power linesmen, electricians and power plant workers is unhappy with the company's latest offer.
"We're strongly recommending against it," said Jeff Richardson, business manager for IBEW Local 1928. "It's not the money members are looking for, it's the pension. They're looking to change the pension. We have a defined benefit plan and they are looking for new employees to come in to a defined contribution plan."
A defined contribution plan is less expensive for the employer. NS Power wants to save money on future employees and is asking everyone else to pay more into the current pension fund because it's short by $180 million. Workers are being offered a wage increase averaging six per cent more over three years, after taking into account the higher pension payments.
A potential strike by nearly 1,000 workers, at the tail end of hurricane season, could be significant."We have been preparing for the possibility of a work disruption," said NS Power spokesperson Neera Ritcey. "We have conducted extensive contingency planning in the event there is a labour disruption."
NS Power isn't providing any more information other than to say managers will fill jobs wherever possible. The last strike by unionized employees occurred more than thirty-five years ago. No further talks are scheduled.