NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard sounded off on Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) executives Tuesday, calling a new contract signed between the power generation company and Wärtsilä, “a joke.”
The new agreement has commissioned Wärtsilä – a Finnish corporation which manufactures and services power sources and other equipment in the marine and energy markets – to outfit BPL’s Clifton site with seven new power engines, which will supply 132 megawatts of power.
The build-out of the new power plant is expected to be completed by the end of summer 2019.
Wärtsilä executives revealed Monday that the company will seek to employ Bahamians to fulfill the build-out of the new power plant, but will source foreign talent if that fails.
“If we a cannot find local talent we will bring in international help with the experience that can handle the work,” said Edmund Phillips, Business Development Manager at Wartsila.
“I can’t say the exact number of local staff that we will hire, but they will be first in line.”
This message, however, did not sit well with Maynard.
He told Eyewitness News Online that BPL should have trained its staff before awarding the contract to Wärtsilä; to ensure that the local workforce would be able to handle the construction and management of the power plant.
“Any plant that BPL owns belongs to us and so our people are supposed to run the plant,” Maynard shared.
“Ain’t no way, while I am president, we are going to allow them to run a plant and send our employees home.”
Maynard said he also isn’t moved by Wärtsilä’s assertion that Bahamians will have first dibs on job opportunities.
He said BPL should leave nothing to question, “simply train the employees they have and put them to work.”
“You need to train people,” Maynard asserted.
“When we did a project in the 1990s that’s not how things went.
“The process was that the union was engaged from the start. Our people were sent off to learn how to build the plant, our maintenance people were sent off to learn how to maintain the plant and we sent off people to learn how to operate it.”
Maynard continued, “ So, you can’t tell me that our people ain’t gonna be operating this plant.”
According to Whitney Heastie, BPL’s CEO, the agreement signed with Shell North America last November outlines that Shell is to handle full responsibility for running the power plant.
If that is the case, Maynard asserted that Wärtsilä will also need to make it clear when they intend to repay the $95 million dollars that BPL is paying to outfit the new power plant that Shell was allegedly responsible for creating.
“If they signed an agreement with Shell for 222 megawatts, and they [BPL] only installed 132, that means that Shell only has to install 90 megawatts,” he said.
“So, if Shell helped them to get this company that means that they are complicit with these engines. When Shell comes in at 2021 they will be taking over this plant and so that means the Bahamian people must get their $95 million dollars back.”
Wärtsilä confirmed that the new power engines should be on the island within two months and fully operational by the end of the summer.