Energy Northwest Begins Work Force Cutsby Chris Mulick, Herald staff writer
Tri-City Herald, April 10, 2004
Energy Northwest has begun issuing layoff notices to 39 workers after targeting 66 positions for elimination to cut costs.
The remaining 27 positions being eliminated will be made up through vacancies, planned retirements and normal attrition.
All laid off workers will receive at least two weeks notice, and all but two of the layoffs will become effective before the fiscal year ends June 30.
Most will be eligible for severance packages. All laid off workers are expected to have been notified by the end of next week.
The public power consortium which operates the nuclear power plant north of Richland, is trying to trim about 5 percent of its work force.
The Columbia Generation Station's only customer, the Bonneville Power Administration, is under heavy pressure to cut costs so it can lower its bloated wholesale electric rates, which are about 50 percent higher than they were 2 1/2 years ago.
It's not just a short-term exercise.
Bonneville's utility customers expect the agency to cut its rates almost all the way back to where they were once the current rate period ends in September 2006.
But in an interview last week BPA Administrator Steve Wright said it's "not a slam dunk" the agency will be able to cut rates at all.
Though he's hopeful some relief will be possible, "I don't expect it to be close to what it was before," he said.
That budget pressure is now trickling down to Energy Northwest.
"Our employees are sensitive to the power rates as much as anyone in the region," said Energy Northwest spokesman Brad Peck.
"We have to do everything we can to keep the cost down."
The layoffs will leave Energy Northwest with a work force near 1,150.
Those jobs are among the highest-paid in the Tri-Cities.
Energy Northwest is trying to cut $5 million out of its next annual budget, though nuclear safety programs and security, including the organization's security force, will not be affected.
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