By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
There will be no forced terminations in Bahamas Power & Light’s (BPL) upcoming right-sizing exercise after a deal was reached with its two trade unions, it was revealed yesterday.
Desmond Bannister, minister of works, said the unions representing both BPL’s managerial and line-staff have signed an agreement to facilitate voluntary separations from the energy monopoly. He emphasised: “No one is going to be forced to leave.”
Mr Bannister told Parliament yesterday that the agreement was signed between BPL and the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU), which represents line-staff, and the Bahamas Electrical Utility Managerial Union (BEUMU) on Tuesday.
“I want to thank those unions’ presidents, their members and officers, who saw the importance of this and gave their members the opportunity to be able to select to leave the corporation on very favourable terms. This is an entirely voluntary initiative. No one is going to be forced to leave BPL,” the Minister reiterated.
BPL’s deputy chairman, Patrick Rollins, revealed last month that the utility planned to initiate a ‘right-sizing’ exercise. That announcement prompted a fierce backlash from the unions, but BEWU president, Paul Maynard, took a more conciliatory tone when contacted yesterday.
“We are in agreement with them. We are comfortable,” he said. “We are just working out the details. With people going we can’t have a brain drain. We have to work this out. Everyone can’t go home. We’re just trying to narrow done timelines,” said Mr Maynard.
He declined to reveal the extent to which BPL wants to reduce its employee count, with the utility said to currently employ 1,050 persons. “They did give us numbers but I don’t want to discuss that,” said Mr Maynard.
BPL’s former management company, PowerSecure, stated in its business plan, which was released last year, that it wanted an approximate “30 per cent reduction in staff by year three of the plan”.
That figure would have represented 315 BPL workers, and was projected to reduce “the cost of service to customers by an estimated $0.013 per kilowatt hour as a result” the business plan further said. The Minnis administration severed ties with PowerSecure in September 2017. BEUMU president Anthony Christie did not return calls up to press time yesterday.
It is understood that BPL’s current Board and management team are looking for a workforce reduction similar to that outlined by PowerSecure. The voluntary separation scheme will likely run in a similar manner to that used by the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) post-privatisation, and a significant number of BPL workers - especially those nearing retirement age - will likely be tempted if the terms are right.
Mr Bannister yesterday said BPL is moving ahead with the introduction of an automated meter system. “Some people have not had electricity in their home for years,” he explained. “This automated meter system will allow people to prepay on their meters.
“BPL is going to offer some concessions to be able to ensure that Bahamians who have had their power disconnected for some time are going to able to benefit from this opportunity. I want to ensure that other people don’t seek to take advantage of this who can afford it.”