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Toronto Hydro chops contractors after OEB ruling

As many as 1,000 contract workers with Toronto Hydro will be cut now that the utility has severed ties with the private companies dedicated to upgrading its aging grid.

Toronto Hydro will also lay off much of its permanent staff currently working on the renewal program — as many as 340 people.

“I wanna cry,” said the owner of Powerline Plus Ben Matin. Powerline Plus is one of the companies Toronto Hydro contracts out.

“This is depressing. It’s starting to wear thin on me,” said Powerline Plus supervisor Tim Daley. “We have employees that have been here for 20 years…It’s a big blow.”

Last week, the Ontario Energy Board refused a $5 monthly rate hike Toronto Hydro said it needed to pay for the upgrades, an estimated $1.5 billion over the next three years. The board instead approved an incentive-based rate hike that will provide less than a third of that amount.

Officials say now non-essential projects are not a priority.

“Right now, all capital projects are on hold.  So those are projects that are not emergency or critical work. So that’s both Toronto hydro employees and our contractors,” said Tanya Bruckmueller of Toronto Hydro.
“The decision by the Ontario Energy Board guarantees that up to 1,000 high-skilled jobs will be lost within the industry in the city of Toronto,” Keep the Lights On, a group of labour and private contractors, said in a statement.

“Immeasurable damage and lost employment will be felt throughout the province of Ontario as this decision will affect engineers, technicians, tradesmen, labourers, vendors, suppliers and local businesses.”

The group says Toronto’s grid — mostly built in the 1950s and 1960s — is nearing the end of its life expectancy, which means more power outages and service disruptions.