Hydro execs plan to take 3 unpaid days off over 8 months as layoff rhetoric diminishes

By | May 29, 2020

Manitoba Hydro executives, engineers and other senior staff plan to take three unpaid days off over the next eight months to help the Crown corporation stave off the need for layoffs — and other employees may follow suit.

Hydro president and CEO Jay Grewal told employees via email Friday that senior staff, including professional engineers, managers, directors and herself, will take a pay cut that will be spread out over 20 pay periods, beginning June 25.

Grewal said the unpaid days were the least objectionable solution to provincial demands for workforce cost reductions.

“All options brought forward were carefully considered and this option was, by far, the preference of this group. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who submitted their ideas,” Grewal wrote. 

“The decrease will not affect pension, vacation or sick leave accruals, group life insurance or service calculations.” 

Grewal said Hydro management is still speaking to other employees about unpaid days and has asked unions to respond by June 3.

“We have discussed similar options and solutions to eliminate or reduce layoffs in each of those bargaining units,” she said.

“Over the last few weeks, many of you have shared with me your understandable frustration and anxiety. I fully appreciate this, and sincerely regret these unintended impacts. But I remain hopeful that by working together and continuing to pursue open and constructive dialogue we will collectively find a solution that will avoid layoffs.”

Hydro has been ratcheting down the severity of workforce cost reductions since Grewal initially warned the corporation had no choice but to lay off workers to meet the demands of the provincial government. 

At the time, Hydro planned to cut 600 to 700 jobs for four months to find cost savings. The measure would have provided around $11 million in savings.

The Progressive Conservative government maintained Hydro must cut spending in non-essential areas to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen had said as many as 700 layoffs could cause longer wait times for service requests and potentially more frequent outages that take longer to fix. 

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