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Toronto Hydro facing privatization threat

June 15, 2016

While The Society continues to urge the Ontario government to stop its sell-off of Hydro One, Toronto City Council has asked municipal staff to consider privatizing Toronto Hydro as part of developing the City’s long-term fiscal plan.

With the Toronto Hydro Local currently in a difficult round bargaining and facing concessionary demands from management that are aimed at removing long-term liabilities from Toronto Hydro’s books, it appears the utility’s management is already preparing the company for a sell-off. The two concessions Toronto Hydro is insisting on are eliminating post-retirement health benefits and stripping down parental and family leave for new hires.

The Society has already begun a campaign to stop Toronto Hydro privatization. A full-page advertisement in the June 6 edition of Metro, the free Toronto newspaper aimed at transit riders, called people’s attention to the potential sell-off. The Society also commissioned public opinion research that shows strong opposition to Toronto Hydro privatization, which the union shared with the media and garnered a mention in the Globe and Mail.

On May 24, Society President Scott Travers addressed Toronto City Council’s Executive Committee, including Mayor John Tory, on the potential Toronto Hydro privatization and its connection to Toronto Hydro Local’s ongoing collective bargaining.

“As your report says, it is important that the City’s revenue sources ‘are resilient and support predictable achievement of a balanced budget,’” Travers noted. Given that it returns a good annual dividend to the City, “this is what Toronto Hydro is and does, and any sale of the asset would not only be kicking the can down the road, it would exacerbate issues with sustainable financing.”

Travers’s full remarks to Executive Committee are available by clicking here.

Though City Council instructed their staff to report on Toronto Hydro monetization, no decision on if or what form privatization would take will be made until this fall. In lead up to that decision, The Society will be working with labour movement and community allies to make sure City Hall hears loud and clear how widespread the opposition is to Toronto Hydro privatization.

In the coming days and weeks, The Society will be asking members to take action as part of this campaign.

While the fight to keep Toronto Hydro public is getting underway, The Society participated in a rally outside the first Hydro One shareholders meeting to demand an end to the sell-off of that company. So far 30% of Hydro One has been sold to private investors.

Society members from across the GTA traveled to the MaRS Discovery District building on College St. in Toronto. But one member traveled from much further. Frank Pearce, an OPG Local Unit Director, joined sisters and brothers from OPSEU, CUPE, Unifor, Acorn and Ontario Teachers’ Union at 3:00AM in Ottawa to board a bus for Toronto. Arriving in Toronto just in time for the rally, Pearce and the rest of the Ottawa contingent made their presence felt with banners, signs and chanting.

“It’s inspiring to see such dedication,” said Travers. “It’s a long haul but Frank and the rest of the Ottawa group showed just how committed we are to stopping the sell-off of Hydro One.”

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