Local 1928 is running an advertorial campaign (paid editorial content piece) with the headline "Lights Out?" in several key Nova Scotia papers. The piece explains the impacts of NSP outsourcing in a way that we hope will speak to Nova Scotia ratepayers and rouse their concern. The publication of this quarter-page advertorial in the Chronicle Herald, the Cape Breton Post, the New Glasgow News, and the Yarmouth Vanguard will be an opportunity for you to raise the outsourcing issue with friends, family, and neighbours, and to ask for their active support. (Contact information for all MLAs can be found here.
Another recruitment fair in Nova Scotia for our skilled workers! Epcor Utilities, a private company whose affiliates include the electric utility that serves the City of Edmonton, will be here in Halifax at the Prince George Hotel from May 9th to 11th (Friday 11am to 8pm; Saturday 9am - 6pm; and Sunday 9am to 3pm) to recruit Powerline Technicians (PLTs) and control centre System Operators. They are seeking up to fifteen PLTs (ideally with five years experience) and five system operators. People are encouraged to apply beforehand in order to schedule a face-to-face interview. Read more about Epcor's benefit/retention package on their website here.
Nova Scotia Power filed a revised PLT staffing report with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board just before the Easter long weekend, a report which now provides projections for PLTs at NSP over the next four years. (See the table on the top of the last page of this report). The number of projected qualified PLTs declines dramatically from 2013 to 2018 (from 172 PLTs in 2013 to 137 PLTs in 2018—that is 35 fewer red seal PLTs). However, the number of bodies in the trade is not projected to decrease at the same precipitous rate, as the projections allow for a robust apprenticeship program (increasing from 11 projected apprentices in 2014 to more than double that with 31 in 2018). The projected overall decline in PLT and PLT apprentices combined is 17 tradespeople over five years (from 2013 to 2018).
Currently there are 165 Red Seal PLTs at NSP. There are 7 fourth-phase apprentices who are writing their Red Seal exam in May, bringing the total number of red seal PLTs at NSP to 172. There are also four second-phase PLT apprentices (176 total). NSP's projection for combined PLTs and PLT apprentices in 2014 is 178. However, that number seems to assume that NSP will be successful in retaining all their qualified PLTs and also that none of their current PLTs retire (by our calculations there are 10 PLTs who can retire in 2014; there are also upward of 10 PLTs who have made commitments to leave the province). Also keep in mind that there are quite a number of red seal PLTs who have not successfully secured a permanent job with NSP, as the number of posted vacancies over the last 18 months has not kept pace with the number of former apprentices who have successfully completed the NSP PLT apprenticeship program. (Those PLTs are included in all the PLT numbers, but those individuals do not enjoy the same security as PLTs with permanent jobs.)
(See the attached letter from Jeff Richardson to the UARB, responding to NSP's April 4, 2014 redacted PLT staffing report to the UARB).
Each year since Hurricane Juan, a Labour Board order requires NSP to file a “Review of Power Line Technician (PLT) staffing levels and reliability of service.” This year’s report was filed this week (read the entire report here). Ominously, projected PLT numbers for 2014 and future are blacked out (or "redacted") because of “potential employee deployment matters that remain to be determined." The report includes evidence that customers have a positive perception of system reliability and that the various outage statistics (CAIDI, SAIDI and so on) are on an overall downward trend, with some minor abberations attributable to weather. The report says that the number of PLTs at NSP between 2011 and 2013 was 185. However, when Local 1928 reviewed the red seal PLTs at NSP today, we count 169 working red seal linemen (that includes the fifteen linemen without so-called "sweaters") deployed across the province. When you count the number of PLTs who will leave NSP in the next couple of months for other jobs (conservative estimate based on known commitments: ten) and the ten linemen who are eligible to retire with an unreduced pension over the next 12 months, that could bring the number of available certified PLTs at NSP down considerably. If NSP and/or the government and regulator is concerned by these diminished (even blacked out) numbers, it has not been demonstrated.
On Friday April 4, the Nova Scotia legislature passed essential services legislation (Bill 37) that put Capital Health nurses, members of NSGEU Local 97, back to work after a brief legal strike and after a one-day wildcat strike that resulted in a labour board order to cease and desist. The Liberal's bill affects some 35,000 unionized public employees in health care and effectively disarms them in collective bargaining by requiring pre-bargaining staffing that renders any legal job action ineffective. As Ray Larkin, legal counsel for the NSGEU (and IBEW Local 1928) says in his remarks before the legislative Law Amendments committee, "If an employer does not need to make concessions during bargaining, they will not make concessions." This bill—even if it does not directly affect your collective agreement—signals a legislated shift in the employer/employee balance during future collective bargaining in Nova Scotia. Watch Mr. Larkin's full remarks to the committee here.