Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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BPL managers union claims it’s in the dark

Darnelle Osborne.

The Bahamas Electrical Utility Managerial Union (BEUMU) yesterday raised a series of concerns with executive management and the board of directors at Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) ranging from recent hires, to the operation of the power company, asserting that the managers have been “kept in the dark”.

However, BPL Chairperson Darnell Osborne refuted the claims.

Regarding hires, she said BPL has sought to fill jobs internally before looking elsewhere, including abroad. She contended that this has been a transparent process.

Osborne also noted that as the board seeks to turn around BPL, the brightest and best minds must be brought on-board.

In a statement yesterday, BEUMU President Anthony Christie said, “Managers must plan, organize, direct and monitor to be effective.

“The BEUMU is not seeing that happen at BPL. What we see are ad hoc changes that have caused disruption. They have not shared their plan in detail at all, almost six months after taking over.”

As it relates to hiring, the union said BPL’s solution appears to be to engage consultants and foreigners without providing an opportunity to existing employees.

“What makes matters worse is that there is no transparency in hirings – a clear violation of the industrial agreement – and changes within the organization of the company,” Christie said.

“In addition, all new hires at the managerial level are coming from the Grand Bahama Power Company… There is no opportunity being given to anyone from BPL, who has more expertise and experience than anyone in the region.”

Osborne again made the point that employees within BPL are given an opportunity to apply. She also pointed out that the employees being engaged from the Grand Bahama Power Company are Bahamians.

But the BEUMU said its lack of involvement in the decision-making process reinforces a narrative that the managers are to blame for the systemic problems at BPL.

As an example, Christie said a new director and assistant were brought in to run operations in Abaco exclusively, but employees were unable to apply for these jobs.

According to the union president, both the director and assistant were formerly employed with Canadian company Sancon, which has also been engaged to evaluate the recent request for proposals for generation.

“This again was something that could have been performed by existing staff,” Christie said. “There is no need to spend money for an independent evaluation. This process has always been transparent and documented. However, when it reaches the board for a final decision then things change.”

Osborne explained that the decision regarding Abaco was made to address what she described as a crisis situation. The island was plagued with complete power failures, persistent outages and a power rotation schedule in February.

Christie said the managers have a vested interest in the company succeeding and simply want its industrial agreement to be recognized and honored.

He called on executive management and the board to be “transparent in their management of the company”.

Shell

Last week, BPL announced that Shell NA LNG LLC & Affiliates has been awarded the contract to build a new generation and liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at Clifton Pier, following a bid process that sought proposals to replace temporary power at the corporation’s Blue Hills plant.

Sancon Contracting Ltd. was “hired to lead a comprehensive assessment of the 19 bids based on the framework of the request for proposals (RFP) advertised by BPL”.

The bid process appeared to be geared toward replacing the temporary power provided by Agrekko International (80 megawatts), but BPL said it revised the RFP to include bids for permanent power.

Yesterday, the BEUMU called on BPL to explain the implications of this move and whether it marks the beginning of privatization.

“What does that mean for the existing plants and the existing jobs?” Christie asked.

“Is this a PPA (power purchase agreement)? Will Bahamians own and operate this facility?  Is this the first step toward privatization? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered because jobs may be at risk. We need to know now so that we can prepare ourselves.”

The union said it is tired of being disrespected; staff morale is low; members are disgruntled; nothing new is being put on the table; and there remain significant challenges in finance and purchasing where “many companies refuse to take our purchase orders”.

 

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