UNIONS: BPL Mismanaged

Bahamas Power and Light Headquarters on Baillou Hill Road.

“Shady” hiring of foreign consultants a “conflict of interest”

Possible strike action looms at Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) as unions representing line and managerial staff claim the state-owned power company is being mismanaged and “run like someone’s personal business”, and alleged the company has engaged in suspicious hirings following the recent voluntary separation (VSEP) exercise.

In a letter to BPL Chairman Darnell Osborne, signed by both Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard and Bahamas Electrical Utility Managers Union (BEUMU) President Anthony Christie, and copied to Works Minister Desmond Bannister, the union leaders pointed out that consultants have been engaged, with no clear understanding of their roles, and further argued that the roles in question should be reserved for employees permanently hired.

The union leaders also pointed out what they claimed was a connection between the recently hired consultants and the Canadian company SANCON, which was said to have overseen the recent request for proposals (RFP) exercise for a new power plant at BPL.

“We see many consultants being engaged with no explanation as to what they are doing. They are being paid up to $10 thousand per month or more, plus perks, that only permanent employees should be entitled to, and these people are adding no value to the company,” the men wrote in the letter obtained by Eyewitness Newsdated August 9, 2018.

“In addition, they continue to come from Freeport and SANCON, the Canadian company that oversaw the recent RFP exercise, that Shell North America (NA) was awarded.

The men went on to detail the recent hiring of two employees they claimed were from SANCON and said, their engagement represented a blatant conflict, considering the company’s involvement in the recent RFP.

“Mr. Donald McClellan, a former employee of SANCON along with another former SANCON employee, is now employed in Abaco as director of the Abaco operations and a consultant. This appointment took place after the RFP was completed. Also Mr. McClellan was employed at SANCON before he was given such a high-profile position in Abaco,” the leaders further alleged in the scathing letter.

“Also, there are numerous SANCON employees now working at BPL. Such a move by BPL is a blatant conflict of interest and appears very shady.”

Both men insisted that the action was “out of order” and amounted to nothing more than a total “disrespect” of the union.

“This week, it was also brought to the unions attention that another Freeport consultant was given the portfolio to be in charge of BPL North and Central Andros operations. This is highly out of order and a total disrespect to both unions and most of all the hard[working], faithful and qualified workers of Andros,” the union leaders wrote.

All vacant jobs, the men said, need to be advertised internally and then externally. They also argued that consultants cannot “just be inserted into any existing job vacancy”.

The men further advised the chairman that none of their members would report to consultants before they pointed to issues with the recent VSEP exercise.

In fact, both leaders expressed concern about some of their members who applied for VSEP and have not been granted approval to leave, as well as some who will stay as long as two years.

The remaining staff they said, “don’t have a clue as it relates to who is still employed and when the ones kept back on contract will be leaving.”

Insisting they cannot continue to “operate like this”, the union leaders said, they will not stand by and allow BPL to be run “like someone’s personal business.”

“Also, we have directors leaving without notice, and new directors coming in, including also a newly appointed executive director from the board (Patrick Rollins), whose role has not been defined,” the leaders wrote.

Bannister recently announced Rollins’ appointment in parliament. The position was previously held by Deepak Bhatnagar.

And while government continues to promote transparency and anti-corruption, the union leaders said, BPL is operating in “the dark” and insisted staff morale is low.

Additionally, the leaders claimed that there has been no improvement made to solve the grave financial and power problems the company is facing and is in fact “getting worse”.

“We are in a poor state and frankly the worst in the history of this organization,” the letter concluded.

“Therefore, we are asking for a resolution to these issues immediately. We are asking proper procedures to be followed and to meet urgently to be included in the restructuring of BPL, and to discuss the way forward.”

Eyewitness News attempted to reach Osborne for comment once it obtained the letter however, those attempts were unsuccessful.