The union representing Manitoba Hydro electrical workers says it wants to know why the public utility wants to contract out the work of replacing thousands of old hydro poles.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) says Manitoba Hydro is accepting bids from private companies to replace 3,000 hydro poles — work that can be done by its own employees, the union argues.

Mike Velie, the business manager with IBEW Local 2034, says Hydro officials won't meet with the union to discuss how much of that work its employees can do.

"Of course it's a fear that we won't be doing that work in the future," Velie told CBC News on Thursday. "Those are good career jobs are going to be lost for Manitobans."

Velie added that contracting out the work would affect not just Hydro workers, but local suppliers.

"There's storekeepers that won't be filling those orders. There's administrative staff that won't be doing, you know, the bills … and timecards. It's a substantial impact," he said.

Velie said a total of 117,000 hydro poles have to be replaced, so he's worried that contracting out the first 3,000 would mark the start of all that work getting privatized.

"It is a substantial amount of work. What we want to hear from Manitoba Hydro is what are they doing to increase the capacity so that our members will be able to do that work in the future," he said.

"We're not hearing a commitment to increase that training capacity at Manitoba Hydro."

Manitoba Hydro has not responded to CBC News' request for comment as of midday Thursday.