NDP Urges Hydro to Guarantee No Layoffs as a Result of Privatization Contract

June 24, 2020

Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg MB—The Manitoba NDP is calling on Manitoba Hydro and the Pallister government to guarantee that no Hydro workers will be laid off or have their jobs privatized as a result of a new Request for Proposals to change customer service delivery.

Manitoba Hydro released a Request for Proposals (RFP) in June to seek proponents for an “off-premise fully managed service” for its Customer Contact Centres. The contract would include technology capabilities like software but would also include “support, service and maintenance to operate a fully functioning contact centre operations comprised of multiple agent locations with the ultimate capability for provisioning for and enabling of remote agents.” According to the RFP, the Customer Service Operations currently employs over 500 Manitobans. The NDP urged Hydro to publicly commit that none of those workers would lose their job or have their positions transferred to the private sector as a result of the RFP.

“In the last four years, Mr. Pallister has slowly but surely set the stage for the breakup and privatization of parts of Manitoba Hydro. This RFP raises questions as to whether Hydro’s customer service operations, and the people who work there, are targets for privatization” said NDP Leader Wab Kinew. “The customer service staff at Manitoba Hydro are the first point of contact to Manitobans who are experiencing power outages during a storm, downed power lines or just everyday business. They deserve a clear commitment from Mr Pallister that this will not result in layoffs.” In November 2018, Manitoba Hydro first solicited proponents to review the corporation’s Marketing and Customer Service Business Unit. That contract was worth up to $3 million to find “cost effectiveness” in the management of customer accounts, including billing.

In 2018 the Pallister government paid former B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell $2.5 million to conduct a ‘review’ of Hydro. In the early 2000s, Campbell broke off the customer service division from B.C. Hydro and sold it to private consulting firm Accenture. B.C. Hydro eventually bought back the division after Accenture bungled the service. He was aided by a senior executive of BC Hydro, Jay Grewal, who then moved to Accenture to become the Managing Director of the transition. Grewal is now the current CEO of Manitoba Hydro. Brad Wall has subsequently taken over the review of Hydro.

“The Premier has spent the last few years undermining Hydro’s reputation and spending millions in politically motivated reviews in order to justify privatizing it,” said Adrien Sala, the NDP’s Critic for Manitoba Hydro. “This is our most important Crown corporation, one of the greatest assets of our province. Mr. Pallister’s actions will not only hurt the families who rely on Hydro’s service but it will put the utility’s future at risk.”