At Least 800 People Working for Public Utility Facing Layoff; Huge Job Losses Won’t Bring Down Hydro Rates

August 11, 2011

BURNABY – At least 800 people doing work for BC Hydro will lose their jobs, but customers shouldn’t expect to see their rates go down, says the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, Local 378 (MoveUP). According to the BC Hydro 2010 financial returns, labour costs are only a small portion of BC Hydro’s expenditures.

Accenture, the privatized arm of BC Hydro, lost the contract to provide IT services to the public utility, which will put an estimated 400 to 450 people working in BC Hydro’s data centre, IT security, access management, applications outsourcing, and at the help desk out of work. The contracts for this work will be moving to open tender in the fall. MoveUP represents people at Accenture and BC Hydro.

More job losses are anticipated when BC Hydro’s Smart Meter Initiative comes online putting nearly 400 meter readers out of work, bringing the impact up to 800 jobs. About half of these meter readers live in the lower mainland and the others live in communities around the province.

“All together these are staggering job losses,” said Gwenne Farrell, MoveUP Vice-President. “At least 800 people will be affected by these layoffs. BC Hydro and the provincial government may say they are doing this to find efficiencies and bring down hydro rates. But the truth is putting these people out of work won’t lower hydro bills.”

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

“This is ridiculous. The provincial government has committed BC Hydro to over $25 billion in private power contracts. The Smart Meter Initiative is going to cost another billion dollars,” continued Farrell. “And they’re trying to ‘gain efficiencies’ by laying off highly skilled workers who ensure services are delivered properly? This is mismanagement, plain and simple.”

The job losses are stark in contrast to the promises made by BC Liberal MLAs in 2003 when one-third of BC Hydro’s workforce was privatized to Accenture. When debating Bill 10, the legislation which allowed BC Hydro to outsource to Accenture, MLA Pat Bell said, “It means more jobs for British Columbians… These are good-paying jobs, family-supporting jobs.”

Now these “well paying, family supporting jobs” promised by the provincial government are about to disappear.

The contract between Accenture and BC Hydro expires on March 31, 2013. However, BC Hydro has the right to end portions of or the entire contract before the expiry date. At the beginning of 2011 MoveUP learned BC Hydro was reviewing the contract. On July 21, 2011 Accenture informed its employees and the union that they had lost the IT portion of the contract.

Smart Meters must be installed in every BC home and business by 2012, as mandates by the province’s Clean Energy Act. Meter readers will be put out of work by smart meters and to date no effort has been made by the provincial government, BC Hydro or Accenture to provide any type of transition plan to new work, despite public promises from government to the contrary.

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Media contact: Sage Aaron 604-317-6153