CMP Plans Layoffs to Boost Profits

April 7, 2009 - Central Maine Power Company has notified the union representing some 700 workers at the state’s largest utility that they plan to lay off over 100 workers in order to boost their profit margin from 9% up to 11%. This comes less than a month after most of the union members ratified a contract set to run for another four years, and right on the heels of approval to use stimulus funds to replace 141 meter employees with automated meter infrastructure.

 After reaching a tentative agreement on a collective bargaining agreement in early March, CMP representatives told negotiators for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1837 that the new contract was a good deal for union members. The company had touted the fact that contract contained no reduction in workforce and offered stability to employees for the next four years. Now it appears that the corporate greed of Iberdrola, CMP’s Spanish parent corporation, has belied the encouraging words that the Company made at the conclusion of the negotiating process.

 During talks between Iberdrola and IBEW from March 30 through April 1 on a potential voluntary early retirement options for union members, a plan strongly suggested to CMP from the Public Utilities Commissioners, Iberdrola demanded concessions on benefits from all union members – concessions that were never proposed during the recently completed contract talks – without any job security guarantees to accompany them.  Iberdrola explained that although the company was profitable, they wanted to increase their profit margin from 9% to 11%. When IBEW balked at the proposal for concessions to increase Iberdrola’s profit margin, an Iberdrola negotiator shot back “I guarantee you there will be layoffs.” IBEW 1837 Assistant Business Manager Bill Dunn decried CMP’s decision to break faith with their workforce in spite of their healthy bottom line.

 “CMP’s breathtaking arrogance and lack of concern for their workforce is nothing new,” said Dunn, “but the elimination of this many positions on top of the planned layoff of 141 meter personnel means that customer service is clearly going to suffer. And that means an extremely high likelihood of longer power outages when the next big storms hit the northeast.”

This newly threatened layoff of employees comes in addition to 141 meter personnel set to lose their jobs as a result of the installation of so-called “smart meters” as part of the Smart Grid Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system approved by Maine’s Public Utilities Commission. The AMI is being funded in large part by $96 million in federal stimulus grants and the rest can be recovered in rates, with no guarantee of reduced prices for customers.

 IBEW had maintained that the loss of the meter personnel posed a significant threat to storm restoration efforts for CMP’s customers. The loss of over 100 more CMP workers is likely to take a bad situation and make it even worse. Maine homeowners and businesses will likely have an even longer wait to get their power back after a bad storm.

 By adding to the ranks of Maine’s unemployed during a severe recession, Iberdrola/CMP is also placing a greater burden on our state’s social service safety net and on Maine’s taxpayers. More people out of work who are unable to find work means more people who will need a helping hand while they attempt to find new work. And more people out of work will mean fewer people putting dollars into our local and state economies. CMP’s drive for profits to send overseas to Iberdrola will hurt Maine workers, their families and communities. It could also have a big impact on CMP’s customers, and on our state’s economy.

Profitable corporations squeezing even more out of their workforce and draining resources from Maine won't help us end this recession anytime soon.