Another Harm of Smart Meters: Nearly 400 People Will Lose Their Jobs

September 30, 2011

Burnaby – Mayors and Councillors at the Union of BC Municipalities voted today for a moratorium on the installation of wireless smart meters. The union representing soon-to-be-out of work meter readers says it hopes the motion will bring attention to the plight of its meter reader members.

The Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, Local 378 (MoveUP) represents nearly 400 meter readers across British Columbia. Even though BC Hydro’s move to smart meters has long been planned at the direction of the provincial government, MoveUP hasn’t been able to get an answer on its meter reader members’ fate – even though it has been raising the issue for over four years.

About half of all meter readers live in the Lower Mainland. The other half live in communities throughout BC, including Vancouver Island, the Kootenays, the Cariboo region and Northern BC.

“I’m not surprised that municipalities were galvanized to pass the moratorium due to the process, and lack of communication and community consultation,” said MoveUP President David Black. “Our meter reader members – who have families to take care of and lives to plan – have received similar treatment from the provincial government and BC Hydro for the last four years.”

Meter readers will begin to lose their jobs in early in the new year. Nearly 400 people will be out of work in the midst of uncertain economic times, as a direct result of government policy.

Individual meter readers and their union have long been asking for a meeting with BC Hydro, Accenture (the outsourcing company that meter readers work through) and government to discuss a transition plan. MoveUP and its members are seeking a just transition – re-training and job placement for the meter readers so they can continue their careers.

For years BC Hydro said the meter readers were Accenture’s responsibility (even though the meter readers a wear BC Hydro uniforms and answer their phones as BC Hydro). Accenture said the meter readers’ futures were in BC Hydro’s hands, as the public utility was implementing the Smart Meter Initiative. While Accenture and BC Hydro point at each other, the provincial government, responsible for the legislation bringing smart meters into every B.C. home and business, has remained silent and refused to meet with the union or its members.

A small glimmer of hope emerged on April 13, 2011 when Energy Minister Rich Coleman was a guest on CKNW’s Bill Good Show. A meter reader called the show and put the question directly to the Minister: “I am just wondering what Mr. Coleman has to say about where me and my fellow colleagues are going to be in a couple of years once these smart meters come in and where our families fit too.”

Minister Coleman replied, “Our objective is to make sure that those folks that are presently employed with regards to reading the meters today, which are the old mechanical meters, [sic] which wouldn’t have to be read the same anymore. What they have [sic] will be transitioned to other jobs within BC Hydro, given the opportunity for re-training so they can have the jobs that they have today, just doing something different.”

When MoveUP followed up with BC Hydro, they said they’d received no such direction from the Minister.

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