WINNIPEG -- Manitoba Hydro announced it will be issuing temporary layoff notices beginning on Friday, June 5.

The Crown corporation said the notices will be going out to members from two of its unions following a month of discussions.

The unions impacted are Unifor and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and Hydro said approximately 200 employees will be laid off for a period of four months. It added this is a significant reduction from the 700 layoffs it was initially expecting.

Hydro noted it was unable to agree with the unions on the cost reductions required to support Manitoba’s COVID-19 response, and that the layoffs will begin in two to three weeks.

Jay Grewal, president and CEO of Manitoba Hydro, said this was not the preferred course of action.

“We will make all efforts to minimize the impact of these temporary layoffs on service to customers, while maintaining the safety of our system and employees in every aspect of our operations,” Grewal said in a statement.

“We worked extremely hard to avoid getting to this point. Unfortunately, we have no more flexibility.”

“We think the whole exercise is misguided,” said Gavin McGarrigle, western regional director with Unifor. “And the cuts that are going to result from this decision are the opposite of what the premier promised.”

McGarrigle said both sides were in discussions about unpaid days off or other cost-cutting measures. He said the decision that led to the disagreement was no guarantee of any future layoffs. McGarrigle said if members moved ahead with the decision, they could have seen more layoffs in the future.

McGarrigle said 12 of the layoffs were from Unifor, with the rest coming from IBEW. The affected employees, he said, were first responders to emergency calls, meter readers, office workers, and a welder.

CTV Winnipeg reached out to IBEW for comment, but has not yet received a response.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Crown Services provided a statement to CTV News about the decision.

“We appreciate that Hydro has made every effort to avoid temporary layoffs through a very modest three unpaid days solution, which amounts to an overall workforce expense reduction of just 1% on an annual basis,” the spokesperson said. “Acceptance or rejection of that approach is of course up to the unions involved and we respect that process.”

NDP Leader Wab Kinew called the decision to layoff workers “completely unnecessary and unjustifiable.”

“Mr. Pallister won't answer for his terrible economic plan because he knows cutting in a recession will only make things worse,” Kinew said in a statement. “200 front line job cuts are a clear sign that Mr. Pallister is willing to cause chaos and hurt to working families for partisan, ideological reasons. These cuts will also do real damage to Hydro and put this essential service at risk."

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont also criticized the layoffs in a statement.

“To date, neither Manitoba Hydro nor the Pallister government have offered a shred of evidence to justify the layoffs announced today,” Lamont said.

“The only reason for layoffs at Manitoba Hydro is because the Pallister government ordered them. It is not the job of the Premier to interfere with the operation of Manitoba Hydro, or any crown corporation.”

The Crown corporation said it reached a savings agreement in principle with the Association of Manitoba Hydro Staff and Supervisory Employees (AMHSSE), which does not require layoffs. Hydro said members of AMHSSE, as well as the Manitoba Hydro Professional Engineers’ Association and Corporate Exempt staff, will take three unpaid days off instead of layoffs.

These workers’ paycheques will be reduced by about 1.2 hours per pay period beginning on June 25, and ending on March 31, 2021.

Hydro said it’s continuing to have discussions with CUPE, and that more details are expected next week.