he massive power blackout that hit Ontario and a small portion of Quebec on Aug. 14, 2003, took a bite out of work for nearly one in three workers.
An estimated 2.4 million workers in Ontario and Gatineau, Que., lost 26.4 million hours of work time in the second half of August because of the power outage and the subsequent conservation period, according to Statistics Canada.
At the same time, an estimated 713,000 people — 11 per cent of workers — put in a total of 7.5 million overtime hours. The net effect was a loss of 18.9 million hours.
Losses spread among numerous industries, but public-sector hit the hardest
There was a net loss in all industries with the exception of utilities, farm and municipal government. Workers in these three industries saw their hours rise as a result of the outage. In some industries, though, the net loss was very large.
A total of 3.6 million of the 18.9 million hours lost were among public-sector workers at the federal and provincial level. About six in 10 federal and more than one in four provincial government workers lost hours because of the outage and subsequent conservation period. While some worked overtime, the net effect was a loss of 16 hours per federal employee and 12 hours per provincial worker.
A significant share of factory workers also lost time in August. Half of all people working in manufacturing were absent because of the blackout. Helping offset this, power-outage related overtime was relatively common in manufacturing with 17.1 per cent of workers putting in extra hours. But the net loss was still 3.7 million hours.
In utilities, 122,000 hours were added to workers schedules as a result of the power outage. While 17.2 per cent of utilities workers lost some work time, 18.9 per cent worked some overtime. The average overtime worker in utilities put in 19.4 hours in the second half of August — more than any other industry.
Overtime was also common in municipal government, where 16.6 per cent of workers put in long hours, second only to utilities. Included in municipal government are many essential services such as police, fire and ambulance.
The only other industry with a positive effect on hours was agriculture. Only 4.9 per cent of people employed in farming lost time, whereas 13.1 per cent worked longer hours because of the blackout.
Total number of people who lost work as a result of the Ontario-U.S. power outage
| ||Number of people absent because of power outage ('000)||Rate of absenteeism (absent workers as a share of total employed (%)||Total hours lost ('000)||Hours lost per absent employee|
|Forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas||4.6||13.8||43.9||9.5|
|Transportation and warehousing||70.1||24.9||858.5||12.2|
|Finance, insurance, real estate and leasing||202.7||45.5||1,943.2||9.6|
|Professional, scientific and technical services||197.4||44.2||1,914.8||9.7|
|Management of companies and administrative and other support services||112.3||40.9||1,167.0||10.4|
|Health care and social assistance||135.0||21.3||1,184.3||8.8|
|Information, culture and recreation||123.9||36.8||1,504.3||12.1|
|Accommodation and food services||135.9||34.7||1,336.6||9.8|
|Provincial||34.5||44.7||1,090.8||31.6||Municipal and other||28.0||25.1||329.2||11.8|