House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz and Deputy Majority Leader Sandy Nafis met with Northeast Utilities representatives Sept. 12 to discuss reports that the Berlin-based electric company plans to outsource hundreds of Connecticut jobs overseas.
“I met with Northeast Utilities (whose divisions include Connecticut Light & Power and Yankee Gas), and unfortunately they did not provide much information beyond confirming that they are looking at improving ‘best practices’ throughout the company including the information technology department, that would include outsourcing,” said Aresimowicz, a Democrat who represents Berlin and Southington in the General Assembly.
The Office of the Attorney General and the Office of Consumer Counsel, Aresimowicz said, had received complaints from concerned employees that potentially 400 regional jobs were at stake.
“I immediately started making phone calls to folks that I know who work over at Northeast Utilities, both constituents and otherwise, to find out if they have heard anything of it. And then I contacted Northeast Utilities upper management, myself, and requested a meeting with them,” he said.
Aresimowicz said he also sent a letter to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority in New Britain to ask for a review on the issue.
“If the reports we are hearing today are true, and Northeast Utilities is considering shipping good-paying Connecticut jobs overseas — I’m outraged,” Aresimowicz said.
Al Lara, spokesperson for Northeast Utilities, said NU has been working to streamline the company since the merger settlement with the Massachusetts-based utility company NStar, which closed back in April 2012.
“Since then, we’ve been working to integrate the different departments and see what the most efficient structure is for the company,” Lara said. “There are no formal decisions or signing of contracts or any decisions regarding the IT department or any other departments at this point.”
Following the merger settlement, Lara said, guaranteed benefits were provided to customers in the form of rate credits and rate freezes, and “the process of the merger is to find those savings for our customers.”
“We have been working with the attorney general’s office regularly on the merger,” Lara said.
“Part of the provision is that we notify the state of all departures from the company, not just merger related, and do so in quarterly reportings. The company will be continuing to follow all the provisions of the settlement agreement.”
According to recent data, since the merger with NStar employment at Northeast Utilities has declined from 9,075 to 8,679.
If NU goes through with outsourcing the IT department, Aresimowicz said there are potential negative repercussions other than the overarching issue of job loss.
“CL&P has had a less than stellar record of the past few years with storm response,” Aresimowicz said. “We finally gave them their first passing grade and now they are going to eliminate people locally, some estimates are around 400, who provide services both direct and otherwise in the storm response area.”
“The other issue is that we are taking the state of Connecticut’s ratepayers’ money, whose electric rates are very high already, and loading up that money, possibly into a cargo container, and sending it overseas while we are telling 300 or 400 of our own state residents that they are out of work,” he added. “To me that is absolutely unacceptable.”
While state legislators don’t have the legal authority to stop Northeast Utilities, a private company, from outsourcing jobs, Aresimowicz said the company is a utility that provides “crucial infrastructure to the state of Connecticut and should be held at a separate standard.”
“I will not rest until I have done everything possible to ensure that these good-paying jobs remain in Connecticut,” Aresimowicz said. “Northeast Utilities has bludgeoned its own reputation with its actions over the past few years. Cutting in-state jobs and shipping them overseas does not seem like a ‘best practice’ to restoring public trust in the company.”