BEC Union Head: Overtime Level ‘Ridiculous’

Following a Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) internal audit into overtime pay, which noted managers should be held accountable for overtime abuses, Bahamas Electrical Utility Managerial Union (BEUMU) President Ervin Dean said he has instructed his members to only work planned overtime that has been formally requested by the general manager or divisional heads.

The report said that during the year ending September 30, 2012, actual overtime pay exceeded the budgeted overtime by $3.27 million.
The total cost of overtime at BEC for the year was $11.835 million.

The report noted during the period in question there were no hurricanes giving rise to major unplanned or emergency overtime.

Dean acknowledged that the level of overtime pay is “ridiculous”, but he said a significant amount of unplanned or emergency overtime arose as a result of the New Providence Road Improvement Project, when major road works were carried out at night.

He said gross under-staffing in technical areas on New Providence and the Family Islands, coupled with manipulation of the system by some line staff are the two fundamental issues contributing to the problem.
“As a result of being understaffed there are persons who know – it is almost in their nature now – they will be called on to work a double shift,” Dean said.

“That is the result of the leadership of the organization failing to look or pay any attention to what we call a manpower plan in the organization, and that simply says how much people you need to get the work done.”

He said when power stations or several power lines go down during the twilight hours, workers are called out, in addition to the emergency crew on stand-by, to correct the problem.

Dean said he has only learnt to what extent through the media and Miller.

“We do believe that a good chunk of overtime pay is avoidable, but again the managers in these key areas need to step up, manage that overtime and keep it to a bare minimum,” he said.

“If we can bring in the proper numbers and they get the people to be properly managed, and not let the overtime be manipulated then the numbers would go down significantly, but you cannot stop it entirely.
“If you need plenty people to do a job but you only have a compliment of 10, then those 10 would be called on to put in the extra labor.”

Dean added that, unlike managers, the line staff do not work flexible shifts, although he claimed the shift system is in their industrial agreement.

During the debate on the Employees Pension Fund Protection Bill in the House of Assembly yesterday, BEC Chairman Leslie Miller outlined that one employee accumulated overtime totaling $421,361.66 in a five-year period, in addition to his salary of $49,547.

He said in one year alone, that employee made $100,305.85, “and the accounting firms tells us on Friday that it is physically impossible for any human being to work the hours that they put in”.

The chairman said it is no wonder consumers — both residential and business — continue to complain about how much money it costs just to keep the lights on, noting that Atlantis and Baha Mar spend 20 percent of their revenue on electricity, while hotels in the United States spend less than five percent.

By Royston Jones, Jr.  
Guardian Staff Reporter