Nova Scotia Power investigates outsourcing some services to cut costs

HALIFAX – Nova Scotia Power is investigating whether to outsource some services to cut costs, a move that a union representing workers at the utility calls short-sighted.

The utility said Thursday that as part of a two-year plan approved by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, it must find savings of $27.5 million.

The company said in a statement it is looking at whether it would be cheaper to hire outside companies to operate and maintain its Tufts Cove generating station, maintain other power plants, as well as do some line work and meter reading.

“We have an obligation to look at every option to further reduce costs for our customers, whether that’s in our capital program, our day-to-day operations, or our fuel purchases,” said Bob Hanf, president and CEO of Nova Scotia Power, a subsidiary of Emera Inc. (TSX:EMA).

“We are reviewing every part of Nova Scotia Power to make sure our customers are getting the best value for their dollar.”

Nova Scotia Power expects to make decisions early next year.

The business manager at Local 1928 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said outsourcing could lead to money leaving the province.

“Our members are the ones who keep this company going and now they want to tear that down and replace these people with companies from outside of Nova Scotia,” Jeff Richardson said in a news release.

“I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. Emera has demonstrated time and time again how good they are at taking money out of Nova Scotia and spending it elsewhere.”

The plan approved by the Utility and Review Board allowed electricity rate increases of three per cent in 2013 and 2014.

Nova Scotia Power said it already contracts out line work, tree trimming, billing and some other services, and before it makes any decisions it will discuss its plans with the union and its employees.

The utility says it has eliminated about 80 positions this year through retirements, not filling vacancies and layoffs. It has about 1,530 full-time workers.