Nova Scotia Power is contemplating outsourcing some union jobs to save money in a move the union says could jeopardize a minimum of 250 jobs.
The company has eliminated 80 positions this year as part of a two-year plan approved by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board requiring it to find savings of $27.5 million.
The company said the outsourcing initiative is separate from the Rate Stabilization Plan, although it acknowledges the outsourcing is part of an effort to control costs. The same approved plan allowed three per cent electricity rate increases in 2013 and 2014.
The utility said 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.
Bob Hanf, the CEO of Nova Scotia Power, said the company is trying to save money.
"It's early in the process and we've been working with the union and our employees and we want to be open and transparent about the process which is why we had the press release today," he said.
"We've been very vigilant in cost, consistently finding ways to work differently to ensure we lower costs and manage costs vigilantly for our customers. So this would be just normal business."
Nova Scotia Power said it will make a decision about outsourcing services next year.
Union braces for cuts
Unionized workers at the utility said the corporation has dropped a bombshell.
Jeff Richardson, business manager with the Halifax International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union, said the privatization could eliminate every unionized position at the utility and cost the province hundreds of good-paying jobs.
"This is like a death by 1,000 razor blades. Everybody is wondering, like a day after today, who's next?" he said.
The union is asking Premier-designate Stephen McNeil to look at whether layoffs would jeopardize the utility's reliability.
"It's expertise work, you can't just take anybody. There's no contractor that I know of besides Emera Utility Services that can do that kind of work. So to get these contractors to do that work they'd have to come in from outside the province," he said.
"You get contractors come in here from outside the province, course that money's going back wherever they came from."
Nova Scotia Power said it has already contracted out a number of office and maintenance jobs.