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Heaps of overtime paid at Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro

Hydro Place in St. John’s, headquarters of Nalcor Energy and subsidiary Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.
Hydro Place in St. John’s, headquarters of Nalcor Energy and subsidiary Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

Consumer advocate seeks answers; PUB considering 2017 general rate application

In 2016, 11 Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro employees earned more than $100,000 each in overtime. In 2015, 17 employees each earned more than $100,000 in overtime.

The highest of these — the supervisor of electrical and mechanical — made $139,427 in overtime in 2016 on top of an annual salary of $95,272. In 2015, the same position earned much more — $235,757 in overtime on top of the annual salary.

Between 2012 and 2016, the total paid to this position by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro in salary and overtime was $905,103.

This information is contained in responses filed with the Public Utilities Board (PUB) to requests for information from the province’s consumer advocate, Dennis Browne, as part of Hydro’s 2017 general rate application before the PUB.

The majority of Hydro’s business is regulated by the PUB and its electricity rates are set through periodic general rate applications.

Browne asked for a list of all Hydro employees with overtime of $40,000 or greater in 2016, and in the previous four years. The 2016 list filed on the PUB website contained 126 positions with overtime above that mark. Those positions had salaries ranging from $62,000 to $136,800.

In 2016, Hydro directly employed 934 people in the province.

Hydro stated its total operating overtime for 2016 was $6.2 million.

Browne asked why the position of supervisor of electrical and mechanical required such a high level of salary and overtime.

“The position of supervisor, electrical and mechanical is a supervisor for a multi-discipline crew whose territory of responsibility includes the entire Avalon Peninsula,” Hydro’s response states.

“The salary for this position is at the assigned HAY scale, which is determined by market data based on the job scope and level of responsibility within the company. Drivers of overtime for this position include increased workload related to the operation and maintenance of the 230kV transmission system resulting from the supply issues and power outages of 2014, coupled with the increase in capital asset replacements on the Avalon Peninsula.”

Browne also asked why overtime expense is such a large percentage of labour-related costs from 2015 to 2019.

The Telegram also asked Hydro if the high number of overtime hours could be turned into extra employees being hired at regular salary rates.

“Essentially, overtime is often necessary to complete the work required to ensure long-term reliability for our customers,” Erin Squires, manager of communications, stated in an email. “Hydro's overtime accounts for about 5.6 per cent of total labour costs and we continue to work toward reducing overtime costs, while ensuring critical work is completed, and reliability is maintained for customers. The work over the past few years has contributed to improved reliability.”

For further information, Squires referred to the response given to Browne on the PUB website.

“Hydro is focused on providing least cost, reliable service to its customers through appropriate asset management practices. Hydro’s asset base is aging and requires significant investment and maintenance. This investment includes a necessary overtime cost component to complete the work required to ensure long-term reliable electricity to customers. Overtime costs are driven by factors including, but not limited to: an increase in the hours of regular preventative maintenance and unplanned corrective maintenance that is required due to aging assets; company demographics which require the onboarding of new inexperienced employees to replace Hydro’s aging workforce as they retire; and minimum staff complements for assets such as Holyrood. Overtime, complemented by experienced temporary personnel, is frequently the least cost alternative during peaks in workload activities.”

Also in response to Browne, Hydro said it continues to strive to reduce the overtime hours worked by personnel year-over-year.

“There is a focused, proactive effort by Hydro executive and senior leadership to manage the amount of overtime.

“Hydro has taken steps to reduce overtime. There is an ongoing effort by Hydro to manage the amount of overtime, including: introduction of new measures to monitor overtime throughout the year; a review of the application of overtime compensation policy and actions to capture areas of improvement; implementation of targeted attendance support programs; and a decrease in Hydro’s operating overtime budgets included in its Test Years.”

The Telegram also asked Hydro what is done to ensure worker safety when an employee is working long hours in possible high-risk areas, and may be subject to fatigue.

Squires said nothing is more important than safety of workers at Hydro.

“We take our responsibility of keeping people safe very seriously,” she said. “As per the collective agreement, employees have a maximum number of hours they can work.”

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