Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) will pay out $70 million to 314 employees who accepted the corporation’s voluntary separation packages (VSEP), Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister revealed in the House of Assembly yesterday.
BPL announced the VSEP exercise in May with officials stating that any of BPL’s 1,038 employees could apply.
Bannister said separation dates were staggered to ensure that the company’s “efficiency is not negatively impacted”.
According to Bannister, BPL paid out $56 million to 219 employees as of June 30.
He said 95 employees approved for VSEPs remain at BPL, stating that eight will leave in July; four will leave in August; nine will leave in September; four will leave in October; seven in November; 39 in December; one in March 2019; 12 in June 2019; four in December 2019; and seven in June 2020.
According to the VSEP offer, some employees were eligible for a severance pay of up to five weeks’ base pay for each year they served and prorated to a maximum of 98 weeks’ base pay.
BPL has long been “overstaffed by hundreds of employees”, Bannister said.
“It should be noted that 59 of the 95 employees who were retained beyond June 30, will be retained as employees with existing benefits while 36 will be retained on contracts,” Bannister said.
“BPL made a determination that everyone who wanted to leave should have the opportunity to do so; hence, many senior employees decided to accept the VSEP. It is therefore expected that 60 of the positions will need to be replaced as contracted and delayed applicants exit the organization over the next two years.”
Employees throughout BPL applied for the VSEP exercise, Bannister said.
In Abaco, 24 of the 99 employees applied; in the customer service department, 33 of the 139 employees applied; in the energy supply department, 61 of the 202 employees applied; 63 of the 224 employees in the Family Islands applied; 75 of the 215 employees in field operations applied; four of the 26 employees in finance applied; four of the 11 employees in the health, safety and environment department applied; seven of the 16 employees in human resources applied; four of the six employees in human resources training applied; six of the eight employees in information technology applied; 10 of the 20 employees in planning applied; 12 of the 35 employees in supply chain applied; two of the four employees in administration applied; six of the 16 employees in engineering applied; one of the four employees in legal applied; and two of the four employees in support services applied.
As noted, all 314 applicants were approved.
BPL Executive Director Patrick Rollins has said rightsizing is necessary as part of BPL’s three-pronged approach to adequately address systemic challenges at the power company.
Following the announcement, both the managerial and line staff threatened to cut power to thousands of customers.
However, the unions later softened their tone on the exercise following meetings with management.
Bannister said yesterday that the exercise will make the company more financially viable.
“Mr. Speaker, there is no question that this exercise will improve the financial viability of the company, making it leaner and more competitive and permitting it to recruit and hire qualified young people within tightly controlled limits,” he said.
“BPL cannot be permitted to balloon out of control to an unmanageable size ever again.
“Based on the existing head count it is expected that salaries at BPL will be reduced by an average of $13.6 million annually over the next five years. This total is an estimate and includes new hires to be added to the payroll.”
He added, “This exercise was concluded partially with funding from the pension fund administrator and partially from funds secured by BPL on July 2, 2017 in its recent borrowing exercise which this honorable House recently passed a resolution to authorize.
“A total of $75 million was received in two tranches less bank fees, legal costs and stamp tax. This leaves the current loan balances at $211 million and $35 million respectively.”
Education: College of The Bahamas, English