News : NSP Workers Vote on Joining Union
Feb 11, 2014 -- Nova Scotia Power’s call centre workers cast their ballots last week to determine if they want to join a local trade union.
"There was a vote Friday for our call centre staff," company spokesman David Rodenhiser said Tuesday. "Don’t have results on that yet and don’t have a finite timeline on when we’ll see those results."
The company has about 140 call centre employees who work out of the Halifax centre and at home in the Halifax region and Annapolis County.
The agent for Local 1928 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers could not be reached Tuesday for comment. The union already represents more than 800 utility workers, including power line technicians, tradespeople and power plant staff.
The union made an application to the Labour Board to "amend the existing bargaining unit by adding the customer service associates," Chrissy Matheson, provincial Labour Department spokeswoman, said in an email Tuesday.
The ballots from Friday’s vote have not yet been counted and no date has been set to count them, she said.
"If this matter cannot be resolved by the parties themselves or mediated, then the board holds a hearing to hear evidence and argument from the parties, and the board renders its decision."
The application comes as the company continues to review the possibility of contracting out up to 280 jobs across the province.
Last fall, the company said it was looking at outsourcing 250 positions, including operations and maintenance at the Tufts Cove power plant in Dartmouth, maintenance at other generating stations, line work in the Halifax region and metre-reading services across the province. Nova Scotia Power issued requests for proposals from contractors.
It issued another request for proposals this year for the operation and maintenance for the Point Tupper biomass plant near Port Hawkesbury.
That proposal would cover about 30 positions — everything from support staff to power engineers, Rodenhiser said.
The company is reviewing some of the earlier proposals and expects to make decisions on some of those jobs in the first quarter of the year and some during the second quarter.
"Depending on the response we get from the tender applicants, if we’re looking toward contracting out, there’s a full discussion that takes place with the IBEW before we make any final decisions on those," Rodenhiser said.
The moves come as part of a 2012 settlement on power rates that forces Nova Scotia Power to cut millions from its non-fuel budget over two years.
The company, which employs about 1,500 permanent full-time staff, cut 111 positions last year, including 46 union and 65 non-union jobs.
"More than half of those were … through attrition, not filling vacancies," Rodenhiser said. In terms of actual layoffs, there would have been 18 union members and 27 non-union employees out of 111."
In addition to possible outsourcing, the company is also looking at plant operations, shift schedules and ways to cut fuel costs.
"We’re working to reduce costs for our customers across the company. We’re looking at lower-cost alternatives for delivering our services while maintaining safety and quality work."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Nova Scotia Power:
Nova Scotia Power Inc. is a power generating and delivery company in Nova Scotia. It is privately owned by Emera and regulated by the provincial government via the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.
Published: Friday, February 14, 2014