BC Hydro workers dedicated to keeping the power on
A message from Charles Reid, President & CEO, BC Hydro
Recently we experienced the first storm of the season. As always, BC Hydro crews were ready and went into action to get the power back on in areas all around Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and elsewhere in the province.
Keeping the power on is what we do every day. BC Hydro employees know that electricity is essential to our way of life. It’s the backbone of our economy. It takes a huge effort from BC Hydro’s workers to keep our modern electricity system running safely and reliably.
It’s not just our power line workers who operate in all weather conditions, at every time of the day and night, through every day of the year to deal with outages. It’s also the BC Hydro employees who maintain the dams and operate the turbines and run the transmission system and watch over public and worker safety.
They all work hard every day with huge dedication, skill and ingenuity to make sure you have the electricity you need to power your home, your appliances, your electronic devices, your schools, hospitals and places of work.
We use more skilled trades and experienced professionals than many other businesses.
Our "cable splicers" spend years learning how to meticulously reattach transmission cables by hand sometimes deep underground in manholes.
Our "trouble technicians" are the first responders to the scene of an outage and have to deal with wires down, vehicle accidents, and customer emergencies to make an area safe and then restore the power.
We have engineers, project managers, system operators, hydrologists and many other experienced and highly trained people that are needed for a modern electricity system.
Cost of labour accounts for less than a tenth of total costs
BC Hydro salaries are based on how much it costs to hire and retain people. And we’re competing for these employees with hundreds of other companies all over North America.
Take our power line workers for example. Power line workers can make $49 per hour in Alberta and $44 per hour in Saskatchewan compared to our wage rate of $39 per hour. Right now we have vacancies for 50 linemen – about 10 percent of the total power line workforce we need to cover the province.
In some areas of the north, we have one lineman where we should have three or four and it takes more than two hours just to reach the scene of an outage. We’re training as many new line workers as possible but it takes three and a half years to complete an apprenticeship.
The cost of labour accounts for less than one-tenth of our total costs and is not the driving force behind the pressure on rates. In fact, we have reduced our spend on operating costs by $390 million over three years, eliminated 800 non-operational roles while shifting available positions to front-line roles, and frozen salaries for managers for three of the last four years.
The pressure on our rates is coming from the critical need to invest in our infrastructure which is aging while having more demands placed on it all at the same time. We are in the midst of a major program to rebuild our dams and power lines to ensure we can continue to meet your needs. BC Hydro’s rates are some of the lowest in North America, and they will remain among the lowest even with the investments we are making.
Despite the incentive to go elsewhere, many people who stay at BC Hydro do so because they are proud to work here and proud to serve British Columbians. Personally, I am very proud of our employees and the work they do to keep the lights on, every day.