Lawmakers press Northeast Utilities to address rumors of job cuts

More than a dozen state legislators are pressing New England’s largest utility to detail immediately any plans to reduce staff as part of an ongoing merger.

House Majority Leader Joseph Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, also insisted that Northeast Utilities respond to rumors that some information technology work would be outsourced to other countries.

But NU responded Thursday that it continues to explore staffing and technology issues related to the merger and, once decisions are made, would share them with Connecticut officials.

“Shipping these good-paying jobs away will not just hurt Connecticut’s economy, but it could also pose a serious security threat,” Aresimowicz said during a mid-morning press conference at the state Capitol complex.

The majority leader, who was joined by 12 democratic state representatives and one republican representative, said they all have heard rumors from constituents that between 300 and 400 jobs would be eliminated, reclassified under an affiliated company name in the Northeast, or outsourced to another region or country. 

“Northeast Utilities and I have had a great working relationship in the past,” he said, adding that that the company nonetheless has been “very vague and very secretive” about his recent requests for details. 

Aresimowicz, who met twice with NU officials over the last month, added the Attorney General George C. Jepsen and state Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz have written to Connecticut’s Public Utility Regulatory Authority, asking it to investigate rumors of layoffs and job outsourcing.

Berlin-based NU merged in April with Boston-based NSTAR, uniting six electric and natural gas utilities that together serve 3.5 million customers in the Northeast

When utility regulators in Connecticut and Massachusetts approved the merger, company officials pledged that any staff reductions would be made through attrition or retirement incentive programs, said Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, co-chairwoman of the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee.

That agreement also called for the state to receive 30 days notice before any major staffing changes were imposed.

Based upon the volumes of rumors spreading among Connecticut legislators’ constituents, Reed said she’s convinced the company has violated the spirit of that agreement, if not the letter.

“They’re not giving us clear facts, telling us what the real story is,” she said. “This has been very, very sloppy at best.”

In a statement issued Thursday morning, NU wrote that “We understand Representative Aresimowicz’s point of view and have met with him to discuss his concerns.  As we have stated, as a result of our merger we are in the process of evaluating opportunities to streamline and improve IT functions so that we can deliver a high level of service to our customers at the least cost.  While we work to accomplish this, we will share any decisions that we make with our regulators and employees when the time comes.”

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