Manitoba Hydro details impact of COVID-19 on corporation

By | June 11, 2020

WINNIPEG — Manitoba Hydro’s CEO says the pandemic has cost the Crown corporation millions, but said they don’t anticipate a big impact on services, even after more than 200 employees were temporarily laid off.

Jay Grewal, the president and CEO of Manitoba Hydro, met with members of Manitoba’s Standing Committee on Crown Services Thursday afternoon, including Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton, and Opposition Leader Wab Kinew.

The meeting discussed the challenges facing Manitoba Hydro, as well as the impacts of 202 employees who are receiving temporary layoff notices.

Opposition Leader Wab Kinew started the committee with an opening statement, proposing they sit for 202 minutes – one minute for each employee that is being temporarily laid off.

“Each of these jobs is worth at least a minute of our time,” Kinew said.

Earlier in June, Manitoba Hydro announced it will be issuing temporary layoff notices for approximately 200 employees for a period of four months.

Grewal outlined some of the many projects Manitoba Hydro is currently working on, including the $8.7 billion Keeyask Generating Station, which she said is on budget and on schedule for the first power this fall.

She said while Manitoba Hydro is making progress, this year has brought challenges.

She said a snowstorm in October knocked out power to more than 250,000 customers. She said Hydro workers were able to restore power for 98 per cent of customers within a week.

She estimated the storm will cost $90 million for Manitoba Hydro, though she said the exact total will not be known until restoration efforts are completed in the fall.

PANDEMIC COSTS EXCEED $8M FOR HYDRO

“If the storm was not enough, we all globally – Canadians and Manitobans – are now dealing with COVID-19 and the pandemic,” Grewal said.

“It has materially changed and impacted how we go about doing our work and serving our customers – both on the operational side and on our projects.”

Grewal said the pandemic has racked up $8.6 million in COVID-19 related costs for Hydro. She said the impact the pandemic has had a $26 million impact on Hydro, with a $17 million drop here in Canada, and a $9 million drop in exports.

While revenue for the Crown corporation has not changed dramatically, Grewal said the people using the electricity have.

She said residential power consumption has gone up by as much as nine per cent at times, while industrial and commercial consumption has softened, she said.

She said they are anticipating a two per cent drop in revenue for a total of $2.84 billion.

Grewal said the Crown corporation’s focus remains on serving the customers.

Kinew added he is concerned about what impact the 202 layoffs will have on Manitoba Hydro’s economic, environmental and social goals.

Grewal said she does not believe the loss of these positions will impact services, though she said some resources from the company’s 5,475 employees will have to be redeployed from other projects during the four months.

‘I’ve always said that layoffs were not our preferred option,” she said, adding they first looked to options other than layoffs, including unpaid leave for employees to cover $5.7 million in workforce savings.

She said Hydro was not able to come to an agreement with the unions which led to the layoffs.

“We always plan and deal with circumstances that require us to be agile in ensuring we meet the needs that are best for Manitobans,” Grewal said. “In this instance, that is economic development as we come back out of the pandemic and its ensuring reliability, and we will continue to do that – even with the 202 unfortunate layoffs because we were not able to reach agreement with the unions.”

Kinew said the loss of 200 jobs in Manitoba is still a lot.

“This is a significant hit that we are talking about,” he said.

The meeting is expected to last until about 4:15 p.m.

CTV News will update this story.

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