Manitoba

More than 800 Manitoba Hydro employees take voluntary buyout

More than 800 Manitoba Hydro employees are taking voluntary buyouts as the utility strives to cut 900 positions from its workforce.

Utility aiming to cut 900 positions by end of this year

Around 95 per cent of the 857 employees who applied for the Crown corporation's voluntary departure program — 818 people — were approved. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

More than 800 Manitoba Hydro employees are taking voluntary buyouts as the utility strives to cut 900 positions from its workforce.

Around 95 per cent of the 857 employees who applied for the Crown corporation's voluntary departure program — 818 people — were approved, said spokesperson Bruce Owen.

The utility is "very pleased" with the uptake, Owen said. Applications for the program were due in May and the results were announced to staff last week.

Just over a quarter of approved employees will leave this month, and a further 50 per cent will leave in January 2018, Owen said. The rest will be spread out between July and December this year.

"Now the challenge is planning," Owen said. "… People will be leaving over the course of the next few months and we have to begin our planning on how we meet that challenge with fewer employees and how we still maintain our level of customer service."

The Crown corporation, which employs about 6,200 people, announced plans to reduce its workforce by roughly 15 per cent or 900 employees in September 2016. At the time, CEO Kelvin Shepherd said the utility expected to meet its goal through retirements.

A small number of the applicants to the voluntary buyout program were denied because Hydro wants to hold onto some skilled employees for the time being, he said.

"There are people whose skills and areas of expertise — only a few — but their applications were denied. It doesn't mean that they won't be approved at a later date, but at this point in time, we need them," he said.

Other applicants were denied because they were ineligible for the program, he added.

The 818 departing employees don't quite meet Hydro's target of 900 eliminated positions. Owen said the utility expects to meet that goal through retirements and attrition.

With files from Nelly Gonzalez