BC Hydro Contracting In Is Costing Us More

Thursday, April 23, 2015

This week it was made clear in the B.C. legislature that the provincial government's arbitrary and unrealistic cap on full-time employees at BC Hydro has not only failed; it has ended up costing us all more.

When the BC government limited the number of full-time employees at BC Hydro, it created a crisis. Hydro needed to reduce their full-time employees but the work still needed to be done to keep our electrical system up and running. Contractors were not included under the government's cap, so while the government boasted about laying off long-time, hard-working Hydro workers, they opened the back door for contractors to do the same work, for up to three times the cost.

The Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Local 378, which represents inside workers at BC Hydro, has been hard at work for over a year challenging BC Hydro’s practice of bringing in outside contractors to do the work that would normally be by union members (contracting in). The union has found several cases of contractors doing the same jobs as union members, but for fewer hours and much higher wages - in some cases, two to three times as much.

"BC Hydro ratepayers are paying the price for political meddling once again. The government cares more about the appearance of the FTE cap than what's really needed for Hydro,” said MoveUP President David Black.

In March, MoveUP won an arbitration at the B.C. Labour Relations Board relating to a sample group of contractors. Arbitrator Mark Brown ruled that BC Hydro violated three sections of their collective agreement with MoveUP  by having these contractors perform union members' work. 

MoveUP has also been meeting with government and opposition MLAs on this issue for months. This week, BC NDP Energy Critic Adrian Dix brought the issue before the legislature. During a process called budget estimates, when opposition MLAs question cabinet ministers about the budget for their portfolio for the year, Dix took the opportunity to question Energy Minister Bill Bennett on Hydro costs, and particularly the increased costs of contracting in.

The issue was then picked up by media, including the Globe and Mail, which noted Hydro’s contracting costs “have climbed from $3.2-million in 2010 to $25.1-million today.”

"Unfortunately, Minister Bennett decided to ignore the figures and praised Hydro for keeping costs down, when in fact contracting in is doing the exact opposite," said Black.

"The government’s response this week was disappointing, but we're going to continue to put the pressure on them to stop the misdirection of the FTE cap and let BC Hydro meet its staffing needs fairly and transparently," Black concluded.

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