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BC Hydro employees’ fate still murky

Job bumping is now underway involving local staff of BC Hydro
Job bumping is now underway involving local staff of BC Hydro's Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program.
— image credit: Courtesy Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program

The office hasn’t closed yet, but the fate of BC Hydro’s Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program in Nelson remains in doubt.

COPE 378, the union that represents the scientists whose jobs are on the line, says the bumping process is underway, despite a report the minister responsible had ordered a “pause” in the process.

One long-time employee has left the Nelson office for a job in Vancouver, while others are considering their options. There is speculation the office may be closed by March 31, the end of Hydro’s fiscal year.

“It’s not closed yet, but it will be soon,” says Gwen Farrell, vice-president of the union’s utilities group. “Those jobs are effectively gone.”

She says Hydro told her it never received any direction from the minster’s office to the stop the layoffs, “so it has been going through.”

The program’s entire Prince George office has now been “reallocated,” although Farrell wasn’t certain of the status of affected workers in Castlegar and Cranbrook.

The BC Wildlife Federation has been lobbying the provincial government to preserve the jobs and come up with a new model in which BC Hydro does not control the program’s purse strings.

Local governments and other scientists have also expressed outrage.

Farrell says she has not given up on an eleventh-hour reprieve.

“I still have hope there’s enough public outcry that they re-examine eliminating these programs and the way it’s been done,” she says. “They are so integral and these are people who are so dedicated to the work they do.”

BC Hydro didn’t respond to a request for an update this week, but previously said it would lean more heavily on community groups to carry out the work.

“I’m not saying other community groups won’t be just as dedicated,” Farrell says, “but this an extreme knowledge base that we’re losing.”

The program was established to compensate for the effects of the company’s dams on fish and wildlife habitat.

The staff cuts were announced in October in response to a government-commissioned report that suggested Hydro eliminate jobs rather than increase rates.

However, Hydro says it will continue to invest the same amount of money in the compensation program.

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