Hydro E-Mails Show Pallister Deceitful on Hydro Layoffs

May 14, 2020

WINNIPEG - Manitoba Liberals say e-mails from Jay Grewal, CEO of Manitoba Hydro, show Premier Brian Pallister has been misleading Manitobans about the need for 700 layoffs at Manitoba Hydro.

Liberals say in multiple letters to Manitoba Hydro employees from Grewal, no justification for cuts is ever given other than that they were asked for by the Premier.

Dougald Lamont, Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party and MLA for St. Boniface said political meddling doesn't justify cuts when Hydro knows they will be damaging.

"Neither Hydro nor the PCs have provided a shred of evidence to explain why any of these cuts are necessary or justified. The only reason Hydro is providing is that they have been ordered to do so by Brian Pallister - which the Premier has publicly denied. These cuts are not necessary and they are happening because Pallister is ordering them, while denying it. That is a bad line to cross," said Lamont.

When the PCs floated more cuts last year, Bruce Owen, Manitoba Hydro's Spokesperson, stated on May 1st, 2019 that the Corporation believed "further staff reductions would significantly increase the risk of public and employee safety, of system reliability, and as well as our ability to provide reasonable levels of service to our customers."

Lamont said he heard from workers who say they have no reduced workload at all - citing the MMTP (The Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project) and Birtle ramping up. Workers also added the communication from their union mentioned they offered a number of options to save cash with a reduced work week and such, and that all offers were being rejected at direction of the province.

The PCs political interference in Manitoba Hydro is every bit as bad as the NDP's. When the PCs were elected, one of their first acts was to dismantle a board that provided civilian oversight of Crown Corporations which oversaw and acted as a buffer between the goverment and Manitoba Hydro, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, Manitoba Public Insurance and the Manitoba Centennial Centre Corporation.

In the last weeks, the PC government has taken credit for MPI rebates, ordered MPI to pay for workers delivering PPE, forced the Worker's Compensation Board to issue refunds, and has demanded cuts from countless other arm's length, independently governed organizations.

"These cuts are going to hurt workers, hurt Hydro and hurt customers. These organizations are all supposed to be run in the best interests of Manitobans, not the PC Party. If the Premier tries to bully arm's length organizations to do something that will harm that organization, they have a right, and in fact an obligation, to stand up and say no," said Lamont.



E-mails from Hydro CEO Jay Grewal

Protecting our customers may call for difficult decisions

April 14, 2020

Yesterday, Manitoba's Chief Provincial Health Officer extended the COVID-19 public health orders for two more weeks and confirmed that physical distancing measures, in some form, will extend into the summer.

What is becoming clear is the response to the pandemic is likely to continue for longer than anyone initially hoped and, while the actions taken to limit the virus' spread may relax somewhat, the negative impact on our way of living and the provincial economy will persist.

Manitoba Hydro is not immune to these impacts. As industries and businesses close or slow down there is a corresponding reduction in energy consumption and in the revenue we generate from the sales of electricity and natural gas.

Recognizing this, the executive leadership team, directors and I are working through various scenarios and potential timeframes to plan for how we might reduce our expenditures to protect Manitoba Hydro and our customers from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As outlined by the Premier of Manitoba in his news conference earlier today, it is imperative we explore all opportunities to reduce our costs - from reviewing all discretionary, non-essential expenditures, to delaying planned construction, to reducing fleet renewal, to exploring options for temporary workforce reductions. One option could see us using the Federal work-sharing program, which we are hopeful we will be eligible for. I want to stress that no decisions have been made yet, but whatever actions we take must not and will not compromise the safety and reliability of our service.

I appreciate this message is likely to add to the uncertainty many of you are already experiencing but I felt it was important to be up front with all of you about the challenges Manitoba Hydro is facing as this pandemic persists.

I remain hopeful that late in the summer we'll start a slow return to normal, but unfortunately there is much that we simply cannot predict. I ask for your patience as we work through our planning and commit to keeping you informed as the situation changes or as decisions are made.

Once again, I want to sincerely thank all of you for the unwavering commitment to serving our customers shown everyday - even in these difficult times.

Work safe and stay well.

Jay Grewal (President & CEO)

No decisions made on reduced work weeks, other measures at this time

April 16, 2020

Human Resources is receiving numerous calls regarding the implementation of reduced work weeks, work-sharing and potential temporary workforce reductions following Tuesday's provincial news conference. Some clarification on the subject is required.

"It's important for employees to know that no decisions regarding any of these initiatives have been made at this time," said Paul Desorcy (Director, Human Resources).

"Manitoba Hydro has been asked, as have all public entities, to find total dollar savings in their budgets. It needs to be reiterated that this includes looking at all costs, not just staffing."

The ask from the Provincial government includes reviewing everything from eliminating discretionary, non-essential expenditures, to delaying planned construction, to reducing fleet renewal, to reducing travel, to exploring temporary workforce reductions. Whatever actions are eventually taken will not compromise the safety and reliability of Manitoba Hydro's service, or the safety of the utility's employees, customers and the public.

"The executive leadership team, directors, and managers are now working through various scenarios and potential timeframes to plan for how we might reduce expenditures most effectively," Paul said.

"And we will be consulting with our bargaining units on matters relating to employees."

More information will be provided as soon as it is available.

Message from the President: Update on our plan to support the pandemic response

May 1, 2020

As reported in Hydrogram on April 17, the Province of Manitoba asked Manitoba Hydro to put forth a plan for reducing spending to redirect needed funding to healthcare and other critical frontline services in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response. I know this plan and the possibility of workforce reductions is on everyone's mind.

At this time, no decisions have been made in terms of staff reductions or layoffs. I want to reiterate that we are looking at all costs - not just staffing. We are continuing to run various scenarios to determine how we can best achieve the required savings in light of the changing circumstances brought about by this pandemic.

Since this outbreak began, many of you have adapted to new protocols and measures to protect your safety as you continue providing service to our customers and our communities. Others continue to balance the needs within your homes to work, homeschool and provide care for your families and loved ones.

When we embarked on these changes together, it was hard to predict (and it's still hard to predict today) how much longer these circumstances will be required to limit the spread of COVID-19, or what the future situation will be.

I want to thank each of you again for the changes each of you have taken on and for the way you continue to fulfill your roles in a variety of challenging professional and personal settings.

I want to assure you that once decisions are made we will share those with you. Until then, within our areas of responsibility, let's continue to look for opportunities to stop any non-essential spending - every dollar counts.

Please carry on giving your energy to your self-care, your home and loved ones, and your work. Share your feedback with me, your leadership team and colleagues about how you're managing and what you need. Please also remember to check in on each other.

As always, the commitment and service you continue to give our province is recognized and appreciated.

Jay Grewal, President & CEO

Manitoba Hydro and bargaining units in discussions on cost reductions

May 6, 2020

Manitoba Hydro and its various bargaining units are currently in discussions regarding how to most effectively achieve the labour savings recently outlined by the provincial government. The provincial news release on the topic can be found here.

As part of the cost reduction efforts requested by the province as the government diverts more resources to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the corporation submitted a plan to reduce expenses. All government reporting entities outside of health care are developing plans to achieve savings targets and support the fight against COVID-19.

"We have been having discussions with our bargaining units as we go through this exercise," said Sharon Harrald (Vice-President, Human Resources). "There are a number of ways we can achieve these savings which we are exploring with the bargaining units.

"More information will be made available once our discussions conclude."

Message from the President: Temporary workforce reduction needed to achieve cost reductions

May 11, 2020

I want to provide you with an update on our collective efforts to find $86 million in cost reductions and labour savings to support Manitoba's pandemic response.

Since mid-April, we've gone through every part of this organization looking for opportunities to reduce or eliminate discretionary and non-essential spending. Thanks to the hard work of all our directors and managers and their teams, we've been able to find over $63 million of the needed cost reductions. Another $12 million in savings was realized by wherever possible not filling vacant or seasonal positions.

Regrettably, this achievement still leaves us about $11 million, or 13 per cent, short of the finish line.

As per direction from government, workforce savings were a part of this review from the beginning, and we've been working with the bargaining units to explore options which would allow for flexibility in meeting this objective. Unfortunately, we could not find common ground on a means to achieve the needed cost savings.

That leaves us with no choice other than to issue temporary layoff notices to approximately 600 to 700 employees, potentially starting as soon as late this week. The layoffs will last four months and will be implemented following the provisions of the collective bargaining agreements.

This is a direction I sincerely hoped to avoid. Everyone who works for Manitoba Hydro is valuable and makes an important contribution to our organization and the customers we serve. Reducing our workforce, even temporarily, is a difficult choice and I recognize the impact it will have on you, your families and our customers.

In the coming days, the Executive Leadership Team will be working diligently and quickly with directors and managers to identify employees critical to short-term business needs and service delivery. We will then make decisions about temporary layoffs based on that assessment.

Information will be shared with those affected in as timely a manner as possible.

The stress and uncertainty of the last two months has been difficult to say the least and I appreciate these layoffs will create even more challenges. However, I've seen firsthand our ability to weather a storm, mobilize within days to create a 'virtual' Manitoba Hydro and know that, despite this setback, we will come through this together.=

I sincerely thank all of you for your unwavering commitment to serving our customers in these difficult and extraordinary times.

Work safe and stay healthy.

Jay Grewal, President & CEO

Message from the President - all options for workforce expense reductions will be considered

May 14, 2020

Since my message on Monday, many of you have reached out with questions and suggestions about what other options could be taken to avoid temporary layoffs. I want you to know that I and the rest of the Executive Leadership Team remain open to exploring all options for achieving the $11 million workforce expense reduction we are seeking, and that we are engaged in ongoing dialogue with all of the unions and associations to this end.

To be clear, everyone should understand that the announced layoffs have never been our desired outcome.

The first option we proposed was for an across the board eight per cent wage reduction over four months. This would have included every single employee at Manitoba Hydro, including myself and all management staff. As with any option not currently found within a collective agreement, for unionized employees this would require agreement from the bargaining units. I personally preferred this option as it equitably impacts all employees rather than leaving a much smaller group to shoulder the weight.

Individual employees have been bringing forward other possible options including unpaid leaves, reduced work weeks, work sharing and voluntary retirements. We remain committed to considering all approaches that support our goal of reducing the number of potential layoffs and to working with your bargaining agents to find mutually agreeable solutions in each employee group.

One option brought forward that is not feasible is another voluntary departure program, given the inherent additional costs this would involve at a time when we are looking to reduce spending.

If you are Corporate Exempt or part of the Manitoba Hydro Professional Engineers Association (MHPEA) and have suggestions on how to assist in avoiding layoffs, I encourage you to discuss options with your supervisor or MHPEA Council, where appropriate. For all employees, as I've said, we remain open to further discussions with our bargaining units.

This is a difficult topic and I respect the various circumstances and perspectives that need to be considered. Still, it is my hope that we can yet find a common path that will allow us to meet this challenge together while minimizing layoffs.

Thank you for your patience and ongoing commitment as we continue to work through possible solutions. I look forward to your continued feedback.

Stay safe and take care.

- Jay Grewal (President & CEO)


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