Power company union chief denies sabotage

Power company union chief denies sabotage
Former cabinet minister and former chairman of BEC Leslie Miller.

Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard yesterday denied claims that his union has ever tried to sabotage operations at Bahamas Power & Light (BPL), formerly Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC).

Maynard, who appeared as a guest on IL TV talk show Beyond the Headlines(BTH) with host Clint Watson, was asked by the host if the union ever sabotaged operations, causing a black out.

Maynard responded this way: “Listen, do you realize the risk of doing that kind of foolishness? You can kill yourself. Nobody got time for that foolishness man … Listen … rubbish.”

Watson pressed further and asked if there was ever a time an outage occurred  during a time when the union had an unresolved issue, or if the union took its time to fix a power outage, to which Maynard responded, “No man, we’re professionals.”

“We don’t have time for that foolishness … One thing about me right, people call me on a daily basis with problems and I deal with it,” he said.

“We are professionals. We don’t have time for that nonsense. I don’t have time and my members don’t have time … it’s a fact.”

However, BTH contributor and former chairman of BEC Leslie Miller suggested otherwise.

“I was appointed Chairman of BEC in 1988 following the 1987 general elections, and we had some serious problems with sabotage of the equipment,” he said.

“The overhead lines going from Clifton up to Baillou Hills, there was no if ands or buts about that. But they were some dangerous times and we had some dangerous people. But the problem with BEC, really, is that we don’t have the necessary capacity, that added capacity – the overage that is needed in BEC.”

As the discussion shifted to the issue of rolling power outages, particularly during the summer months, Maynard insisted that BPL has the capacity, but insists the equipment, which he called antiquated is the real issue. Until the equipment is replaced, Maynard said the mass outages are more or less inevitable. 

“We have the capacity you know. It aint that. Listen, we have just about 300 megawatts installed. The system is doing now 250 in the summer … So there’s capacity. The problem is, the equipment is old,” he said.

“I have always maintained from 2014, when I got in to now, that we need to change the equipment and the fuel. We’ve made some suggestions to this new board and I have stressed the fact that we need to send Baillou Hills to propane. If you convert Baillou Hills to propane  now, the public gets a cost savings. The propane is cheap in the United States.”

He further reasoned that, “You (BPL) now have Shell North America (NA) as your partner. Shell NA is the biggest distributor in the world of propane gas and liquified natural gas (LNG).”

“We haven’t had a protection audit since 1990. That’s the problem right there. The problem is, when lighting hits transmission, or a truck hits a transmission pole, [the] whole island goes off.

“See you got to fix that problem and see, it’s not an easy fix. Now this summer coming … some lighting storm [comes], it’ll happen … some it won’t. It depends. The point I’m making is it [is going] to happen once or twice, or three times but, it has nothing to do with the union sabotaging. We don’t have time for that. We’re professionals.”

Maynard insisted that as outages happen this summer, he and his members are prepared to do all they can to get the lights back on.

“We are going to do our best,” he said, “to get out there, rain or shine, thunder or lighting, and deal with it. That’s what we do. That’s what we do best. The guys at Clifton Pier [are] working 24/7 to keep those old aging equipment going. That’s what we’re in.

“Now the board says they’re making moves to change the position. Well, when the position is changed, the whole country will benefit from it, alright. But something needs to be done and something needs to be done now. It should have been done yesterday. The fact is, we are here and so we [have to] roll with it. But we [will] do what we have to do, to keep the situation going.”

Meantime, Miller offered this solution, while he railed against BPL’s proposed arrangement with Shell NA.

“The answer to this situation right now, in my opinion, is that the board now needs to get a company to come with another 80 more megawatts of power to run us through the summer,” he said.

“That decision should have been made over a year ago, or when the new government took over. This concept of going with Shell America, or whoever they are … Shell America will own the plant.

“BEC will buy power from Shell America for 25 years. I want to make it clear. You are then under their auspices that you are depending on them for your power, which to me is very dangerous.”