Re: Job losses are a real concern (Burnaby Now, Jan. 13).
I read Gwenne Farrell's letter of Jan. 13 with great interest. However, the arguments she advances in opposition to digital smart meter technology, over antiquated mechanical meters read manually by human meter readers, are the same Luddite arguments that have greeted every new technological innovation that has displaced workers since the dawn of time.
As a union official with the COPE 378 union, it is obviously Ms. Farrell's job to preserve and expand the union's power base and watch out for the interests of COPE 378 union members, including the interests of those employed to manually read mechanical electrical meters. However, these interests may not coincide with the interests of the rest of us; i.e. B.C. Hydro customers, B.C. taxpayers and the general public.
Perhaps Ms. Farrell could explain to readers of the Burnaby NOW what happened to the workers who once delivered ice to people's homes for their ice boxes. For that matter, perhaps Ms. Farrell could explain what happened to the teams of horses that once pulled the wagons filled with ice for ice boxes.
And what about elevator operators, or typists and typesetters; or even telegraph operators sending messages by Morse code? These occupations, along with switchboard operators and those who once made stone spear points for our Neolithic ancestors, have all become obsolete. There is definitely no shortage of occupations that have been made obsolete by technological innovation.
However, there is also no shortage of new occupations and employment that has emerged because of technological innovation. In fact, contrary to the Luddite view of the world advanced by Ms. Farrell, technological innovation tends to lower the cost of goods and services while improving quality and creating overall gains in employment due to increased demand and supply.
And while Ms. Farrell is of the view that the investment being made in smart meters could "pay all of (COPE 378's) meter readers for the next 60 years," it is equally true that the investment being made in smart meters will save millions of dollars and will more than pay for the investment over the next 20 years. For example, smart meters will save B.C. Hydro more than $100 million per year in pre-vented electricity theft, which is something that existing mechanical meters and human meter readers are not able to do.
I also want to point out to Ms. Farrell and COPE 378 that they do not hold a patent on caring for people and their families.
This is a concern that we all share in society.
And we fully expect our governments to pursue prudent policies that support economic growth and job creation.
Availing ourselves of technological innovations such as smart meters that can help to keep B.C.'s electricity rates among the lowest in North America, and our electricity supply one of the cleanest, is something that supports the province's job creation policies and will invariably lead to the kind of jobs people want and need, and in numbers far greater than the meter reader jobs being displaced.
So, while it is unfortunate on a personal level that the jobs of the COPE 378 union workers who previously read electrical meters have been made redundant by technology, the gains made will invariably lead to better jobs and job opportunities for these displaced workers and for many others in our province. The history of technological innovation, from the Stone Age to the present, has shown this to be so.
David Field is a cospokesperson for B.C. Citizens for Green Energy.
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