Manitoba Hydro cutting 900 jobs, offering buyouts as part of restructuring

Manitoba Hydro is cutting 900 positions across the province to improve operational efficiencies and strengthen its financial position.

The company says it is also cutting three vice-presidents, effective Friday.

The Crown utility plans to offer voluntary buyouts later this spring to help it reach the number of job cuts.

Wages are already frozen this year for more than half of Manitoba Hydro’s employees.

Three of the four unions that represent about 2,100 workers negotiated new contracts in the past few months, which include a zero-per-cent wage hike for 2017.

Hydro executives warned in the fall that the utility’s debt could increase to $25 billion from the current $13 billion in the next few years as the Keeyask generating station and the Bipole III transmission line are completed.

Hydro president and CEO Kelvin Shepherd says the wage freezes “combined with ongoing reviews of operating and capital expenditures, are all significant steps towards improving the financial stability of Manitoba Hydro.”

“In the same way we pull together to restore service to our customers during a storm or other system emergency, I am absolutely confident that we will pull together as we move forward with our strategy to make Manitoba Hydro a stronger, financially stable, customer-focused organization creating value for Manitobans.”

Premier Brian Pallister and Finance Minister Cameron Friesen have warned that public-sector wages aren’t sustainable, and wage freezes and opening of contracts are options.

Crowns Services Minister Ron Schuler has been steadfast that the Tories will not interfere in the affairs of Crown corporations, but has been critical of the state of Hydro’s finances, accusing the NDP of bankrupting the Crown.