HARTFORD -- Northeast Utilities, the publicly traded parent of Connecticut Light & Power and Yankee Gas, said Tuesday it is eliminating 200 information technology jobs, a move hinted at for some time but which nonetheless drew quick rebuke from state officials.
In a rare public explanation for such a move, David McHale, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, said on a conference call with reporters that of the utility's 400 IT-department jobs, 200 will be kept. Of the jobs being eliminated, 40 will continue working for two partner companies based overseas.
Much of the work monitoring the grid and responding to storms will continue to be done in Connecticut, McHale added.
Last year, the electric and gas utility bought Boston-based NStar for $5 billion, establishing one of the largest utilities in the country and the biggest in New England. McHale said cutting jobs was part of efforts to merge operations.
CL&P, one of five subsidiaries, is Connecticut's largest electric utility, serving more than 1.1 million residential, municipal, commercial and industrial customers in approximately 149 cities and towns, according to its website.
It was harshly criticized for its response immediately following Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 and the unusual snow storm in October 2012.
Yankee Gas, another subsidiary, is the state's largest natural gas distribution company, serving more than 200,000 customers in about 70 municipalities for heating, hot water, outdoor cooking, fireplaces and outdoor lighting.
State Rep. Joe Aresomiwicz, the House majority leader, criticized the Northeast Utilities' decision and said it could lead to deteriorating service.
"I'm disappointed and, quite frankly, disgusted that NU is slashing good-paying Connecticut jobs," he said in a statement.
In a joint statement, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz raised concerns about the public benefit of the move and said they would closely monitor how the layoffs take place.
They have each asked the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to review how the IT outsourcing could impact the company's major storm readiness, response and communication, they said, as well as whether the move is compliant with the terms of its merger.
"We remain deeply committed to the terms included in the merger agreement, and we will continue to monitor this situation to ensure that Connecticut is not ultimately disproportionately affected," Jepsen and Swanson Katz said in the statement.
While the layoffs weren't unexpected, the statement continued, they will naturally severely impact the families of the staff reductions. To make sure the cuts don't worsen overall service for ratepayers, they continued, they will work to ensure that the expected cost savings get reflected in lower rates for consumers in the 2014 rate case.
"While the full impact of today's announcement will likely not be known for several months, these changes make it even more critical that PURA take a close look at NU's manner of operations in Connecticut," they said.
The utility, which doesn't typically schedule conference calls to discuss staffing changes, handled it differently this time. The announcement was in response to "a lot of information and misinformation," McHale said.