1,000 People at BC Hydro, Another 800 People from Accenture: Government Hacking at Bone, Not Trimming Fat

August 12, 2011

BURNABY – The cuts keep coming at BC Hydro with the release of the Ministerial Rate Review panel recommendations, says the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, Local 378 (MoveUP). MoveUP represents workers at BC Hydro its privatized arm, Accenture. But the people working at BC Hydro aren’t the problem, says the union.

“The panel didn’t clearly and directly address the real reasons for rising rates,” said Gwenne Farrell, MoveUP’s Vice President for Utilities. “Government policies got us into this situation, including private power purchases and smart meters, but the government panel preferred to scapegoat the people who work for BC Hydro.”

Where they could actually affect rates, the panel pulled their punches. While the panel recognized the high price and rapid growth of private power costs, they stayed silent on the government’s direction to BC Hydro to acquire all new sources of energy from private power, to the tune of $25 billion in contracts.

And on this issue of smart meters, the panel said the $1 billion cost may be too high, but didn’t address the policy issue of how the program was imposed on BC Hydro through government legislation without oversight.

The panel took a firmer line when recommending BC Hydro cut 1,000 jobs, despite the fact the public utility is mandated by the Clean Energy Act to maintain staffing levels required to provide British Columbians with safe, reliable power. But the job losses could impact the public utility’s safety standards and customer service.

Just recently Accenture – the privatized arm of BC Hydro – admitted to their employees they had lost the IT contract which would put another estimated 400 people out of work, on top of the 400 meter readers who will be displaced by smart meters.

But all of BC Hydro’s direct labour costs – including management and union members – are only about 11.3% of their total expenditures. BC Hydro’s direct labour costs from Accenture employees are only 1.3% of their total spend, according to the BC Hydro 2010 Financial Information Act Return.

“This is unbelievable,” said Farrell. “Between the panel recommendations and the job losses at Accenture 1,800 people could be put out of work. This is tragic, most of all because labour costs aren’t driving Hydro rates.”

“And while this is happening, no one is talking about responsibility. I have some big questions I’d like to see answered,” said Farrell. “Where was the oversight? Where were the BC Hydro Board and senior management? Where was the BC Utilities Commission?”

“But I know the answer,” finished Farrell. “This government pushed us into this mess. Now they’re trying to hack their way out and they want the people who do BC Hydro’s work to pay the price.”

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Media contact: Sage Aaron 604-317-6153