A Lack of Confidence at BWL?

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

"When it comes to dollars or safety, they're putting dollars ahead of safety," Board of Water and Light employee Duane Williams told commissioners at Tuesday night's meeting.

It's one of the concerns some employees have about the way things are being done these days at BWL.

A new survey commissioned by a BWL union claims employees don't trust management. The union's business manager says that could affect customers down the line.

"We have repeatedly been concerned about the cost of doing business, being productive, being more efficient," said Joseph Davis of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 352.

The voluntary survey was conducted by a third party hired by the union. By its own estimate, Local 352 represents a little more than half of the workers at BWL.

Some on the board question the accuracy of the survey.

"I could have taken the survey," commission Vice Chair Joseph Graves said at the meeting. In other words, he's concerned people who weren't supposed to vote in the survey could have.

Most on the board were willing to at least hear the survey results.

One of the most startling of them: Ninety-six percent of union workers surveyed say they don't believe BWL General Manager Sandy Novick should continue to lead the utility. Novick admits there are problems.

"I think we're trying to get the whole Board of Water and LIght to better serve our customers," he said.

And he refutes claims that customers may not getting the most efficient service.

"Our rates right now are 23 percent cheaper than Consumers Energy," Novick said.

Still, the chairwoman of the board that oversees BWL says the employees' concerns deserve to be looked into.

"The employees do have some negative perceptions," Robin Smith said.

Smith says it's not clear if those perceptions are reality, saying commission members haven't had the chance to scrutinize the results.

For all the negativity found in those results, some employees say there are solutions.

"We've been managed better. I want to get our concerns addressed. If that happens we're all satisfied," BWL employee Catharine Coffey said.

For its part, the union says Novick's ouster isn't the goal. His contract comes up August 17.


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