hi-nova scotia power workers at council meeting

About 25 unionized workers with Nova Scotia Power attended Monday night's meeting. They want the municipality's help to stop outsourcing at the utility. (Joan Weeks/CBC)

Nova Scotia Power came under fire on Monday night from councillors in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality who accused the utility of union busting as it considers outsourcing some union jobs.

The corporation announced last month it is looking at whether it would be cheaper to hire outside companies to operate and maintain its Tufts Cove generating station, maintain other power plants, as well as do some line work and meter reading.

Coun. Eldon MacDonald said the corporation is union busting.

"Laying off a bunch of unionized employees that have been here supporting our local economy with decent paying jobs and of course, contracting out for less paying jobs," said MacDonald.

"Of course, the people that were making the wages and supporting our community are heading out west with the rest of the people that went out west the last 10, 15 years on this island."

While Nova Scotia Power has said it hasn't yet made a decision about whether it will contract out services, the possibility angered the union representing 850 Nova Scotia Power employees — the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1928.

Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger said Nova Scotia Power has a responsibility to its workforce.

"To hear what's going on here is just ridiculous. Profits that are just out of this world for a corporation," he said.

"At the same time, I think there is a responsibility to a workforce, a workforce that's dedicated, that does the job."

About 25 unionized workers with Nova Scotia Power were at the council meeting. They did not speak at the meeting, but Coun. Jim MacLeod brought their concerns forward.

"The business manager of Local 1928 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers states that such a move could mean the loss of every unionized Nova Scotia Power employee in Cape Breton Island in all classifications," said MacLeod.

The union there have already been layoffs over the last couple of years at Nova Scotia Power locations in Cape Breton, including one at the Point Aconi Generating Station and more than a dozen position at the Lingan Generating Station.

Nova Scotia Power has said it needs to find $27.5 million in savings as part of a two-year plan approved by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

The outsourcing initiative is separate from the Rate Stabilization Plan, although Nova Scotia Power has acknowledged the outsourcing is part of an effort to control costs. The same approved plan allows for electricity rate increases this year and next.

Mayor Cecil Clarke said he will raise the council's concerns with Premier Stephen McNeil in an upcoming meeting.