All Mountain Water Company Employees Reject City Employment Offer

Employees of Mountain Water Company today rejected the city of Missoula’s stipulated offer of employment, saying that they prefer to work for an experienced water system owner that treats them with trust and respect.

The 37 employees of Mountain Water also requested that the city abandon its costly, unnecessary attempt to take over Missoula’s water system.

“The city has not presented a valid case or argument for taking Mountain Water assets through condemnation, nor in any way proved that condemnation is in the best interest of Missoula customers,” the employee group stated in a letter submitted to Mayor John Engen and members of the Missoula City Council. “Mountain Water assets are already being put to their best public use, with a dedicated employee group and an incoming long-term regulated utility owner. And the city has failed to show how it would improve service, while our reputation in terms of service speaks for itself.”

waterThe letter served as official notice that employees have rejected a demand from the city of Missoula to individually sign a stipulated employment agreement, which was provided to Mountain Water’s employees on Sept. 12, 2014. The city’s offer set a signing deadline of Oct. 13. Employees who did not accept the city’s offer in writing will not be guaranteed jobs if the city takes ownership of Mountain Water.

None of Mountain Water’s 37 employees signed the city’s agreement.

In the letter, Mountain Water’s employees expressed concerns that the city has yet to explain its plans for managing Missoula’s water system to them or to the community.

The employees also pointed out that the city showed wanton disregard for the fact that they are organized by demanding that employees individually sign the employment agreement and by singling out individual members of the employee group in filings. This tactic by the city comes on the heels of its efforts to block employees from intervening in the case, despite a judge’s ruling that the employees have a right to a voice in the condemnation case.

Given these concerns, Mountain Water employees stated that they prefer ownership by Liberty Utilities, which last month announced through its parent company Algonquin Power & Utilities that it has agreed to purchase the stock of Western Water Holdings, which indirectly owns Mountain Water, for $327 million.

“Liberty Utilities, an experienced water system owner, has treated us with trust and respect,” the employees wrote. “They clearly appreciate the hard work and innovations we apply daily to operate a very reliable water system. They have assured us they will keep all employees and will not split up our employee group. This will allow us to continue to serve this community with excellence, as we have for generations.”