Union worries job cuts come with Hydro-Québec smart meter project

Utility says upgrade will see savings of $300 million annually, union disagrees

The union representing clerical and technical workers at Hydro-Québec says that if the company moves forward with its plans to implement smart meters in the coming years, more than 170 jobs will be eliminated in the Montreal region alone.

The union will be opposing the project at an upcoming hearing at Quebec’s energy board.

Hydro-Québec first unveiled its plans to deploy approximately 3.8 million smart meters across the province in May 2011. The utility says that initial investments will cost $88 million, but that in 20 years the new system should see almost $300 million in savings annually.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 2000 disagrees, claiming that replacing old meters will see almost 800 direct employees losing jobs and 200 indirect employees without work. The union estimates this will cost the provincial government $14.7 million in tax revenue annually.

Hydro-Québec has acknowledged that about 726 positions — mostly meter readers — will be eliminated, but that 32 per cent of those workers will be eligible for retirement. The utility says that remaining workers can be relocated elsewhere in the company.

CUPE Local 2000 has launched an opposition campaign at the website CompteursEnOr.com and will be presenting its arguments at the upcoming energy board public hearings.

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