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The four main Hydro-Québec unions, representing some 17,500 workers, are extremely disappointed with the Marceau budget, tabled Tuesday. They view the elimination of 2,000 jobs at the corporation as a lack of vision on the part of the Marois government. In their opinion, the elimination of nearly 9 per cent of the Hydro-Québec workforce will affect the quality of service, network security and the profitability of the company, in addition to opening the door to gradual privatization.

“This budget misses the mark: instead of tackling the problem of increased efficiency, it targets employees essential to the strength of Hydro-Québec,” said Ginette Paul, president of CUPE-Québec’s Energy Sector.

“There are many avenues of efficiency to be explored. For example, the TransCanada Energy natural gas power plant in Bécancour: Hydro is spending $200 million a year to keep it closed. Then there are all the electricity purchases from private producers while Hydro has an energy surplus. That represents an annual loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. There are also the Client Information System and Client Optimization Systems projects, initially estimated at $320 million. According to the latest updates, they are now at over half a billion,” said Ginette Paul.

“Recent events in the news should give the members of the government second thoughts about under-staffing. It has been demonstrated that excessive use of outsourcing leads to a loss of expertise resulting in a significant cost increase,” said Ginette Paul.

“The Marois government, descended from René Lévesque’s party, is capable of much greater vision. Hydro-Québec, the jewel of the Quebec government, is an extraordinary lever of economic development and renewable energy that would enable us to become our own masters. However, the Marceau budget is surprisingly silent about it,” said Marcin Kazmierczak, union advisor and coordinator of CUPE-Québec’s Energy Sector.

Accordingly, the four major Hydro-Québec unions are asking the Marois government to reformulate its goal in terms of efficiency gains rather than job losses.

The Hydro-Québec unions comprise four main locals: the Syndicat des technologues d’Hydro-Québec (CUPE 957), the Syndicat des employé-e-s de métiers d’Hydro-Québec (CUPE 1500), the Syndicat des employé-e-s de techniques professionnelles et de bureau d’Hydro-Québec (CUPE 2000) and the Syndicat des spécialistes et professionnels d’Hydro-Québec (CUPE 4250). Together, they account for almost 80 per cent of the staff at the government corporation.