Nova Scotia Power union says outsourcing could mean longer outages from storm

Published on July 4, 2014

Nova Scotia Power is on the scene, cutting power to the immediate area. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

METRO HALIFAX

The union that represents Nova Scotia Power line workers is warning residents to be prepared for lengthy power outages caused by Hurricane Arthur on Saturday, because of a reduction in the number of line workers at the company.

“We want to make sure that people are aware that even if we’re putting the power back on and there are delays, it’s not because we’re not out there,” said Andrea McQuillin of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1928. “It’s because of the direction that Nova Scotia Power has taken.”

Nova Scotia Power announced recently that it would contract out some services, including line inspection and capital work, in an effort to cut costs.

No layoffs had happened as of mid-June, but the union said July 3 that 21 line workers had either left NSP or retired over the last year, and those positions hadn’t been filled – leaving 167 in-house line workers on the job.

With fewer in-house crews available to respond to the expected July 5 storm, McQuillin said it will be up to NSP’s contractors – employed through the affiliate company Emera Utility Services – to fill the gaps.

“NSP doesn’t have the resources. I wonder whether Emera Utility Services has all the resources required,” she said. “This remains to be seen, but certainly the number of linemen is fewer.”

NSP spokesperson Neera Ritcey said the “robust” planning process for Saturday’s storm started days ago with monitoring the forecast.

Read more on NSP's storm prep here.

She said the company is “confident” it has sufficient contractors and in-house line workers to manage outages, though she wouldn’t say how many of the roughly 170 NSP employees would be standing by.

“There’s never really one figure that you need in a storm, it can change, it depends on the needs of the storm, and we have sufficient resources at our disposal for that,” said Ritcey. “We are doing the planning and we are putting the resources in place that we require.”