Provincial Liberals call for audits as Nova Scotia Power lays off workers

Nova Scotia Power Inc. is laying off 40 employees across the province as a “cost-cutting measure.”

Nova Scotia Power laid off 40 employees this past week
Nova Scotia Power laid off 40 employees this past week. (Nathaniel Basen Photo)

By Nathaniel Basen

The heat has been turned up on Nova Scotia Power Inc. as the company comes under fire following layoffs.

On February 9th, the private energy supplier for all of Nova Scotia announced that 40 employees would be laid off across the province as a “cost-cutting measure.”

Jessica Parker, spokesperson for NSPI, says that the measure was done to increase efficiency and lower costs.

“This was a difficult day for all of us. A tough decision,” she says.

Parker assures that this is the last measure of its kind in the foreseeable future, cautioning that the company is changing all the time, and circumstances may dictate other courses of action.

“Savings don’t always need to be found at the staff level.”
–Andrew Younger

Although she didn’t have an exact figure, Parker says the savings to the company will be “in the millions of dollars.”

Andrew Younger, the official Opposition critic for the Department of Energy, isn’t buying it.

Younger says that if the savings were truly about cost and removing redundancies, he would prefer to see them look outside the staff level first.

“I wish they would take that approach to all of their operations from fuel usage, to plant efficiency, and so forth,” says Younger. “Savings don’t always need to be found at the staff level. NSPI has a lot of costs which should be looked at.”

He has introduced legislation which would require regular performance and efficiency audits which he believes will locate inefficiencies. This would pass savings on to the customers without terminating any more workers.

Parker notes that the decision is “just one of the cost-cutting measures we’re exploring.”

The non-unionized employees, who were located throughout the province and employed in a variety of functions, all received severance packages from the company.

Additionally, each employee has been provided with outplacement services to help them find a new job. This is done through various third-party organizations hired by NSPI.

Last Friday Emera released it’s fourth-quarter earnings. The parent-company saw its earnings nearly double from last year to $46.8 million.

NSPI, the largest subsidiary of Emera Inc., has had a difficult start to 2012 in the press.

Higher rates lead to more pressure

In January, a residential rate increase of 9.10 per cent drew the ire of politicians and residents alike, who note that it’s already the second most expensive supplier in the country.

Rates have increased more than 40 per cent since 2002, although the company credits that mostly to rising costs of coal, and government-mandated green energy investment. The company is to be reliant on green energy for 40 per cent of its energy input by 2020.

This week, Conservative Opposition leader, Jim Baillie, called for a government analysis into the Muskrat Falls development, part of the Lower Churchill project, which is supposed to expand Nova Scotia’s hydro capabilities.

Baillie worries that Emera, with a hand in both NSPI and the Muskrat Falls development, might not have the taxpayers interest in mind when building the development.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1928, the union that represents NSPI employees, declined to comment on this story as the workers were non-unionised.