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Job Protection Measures

Fortnightly Magazine - September 15 1997

Key points from approved and pending legislation

California:

A.B. 1890, signed into law Sept. 23, 1996.

• Plant Divestiture. To ensure the safe, reliable operation when utilities sell off generating facilities, buyers or successor corporations must keep the current staff on board for at least two years.

• Stranded Cost Recovery. Statute recognizes explicitly that transition to customer choice can produce employee hardships. Law finds it "preferable" that parties rely on voluntary severance, retraining, early retirement, outplacement and related benefits to achieve workforce reductions. Statute notes that competition transition cost should include reasonable costs associated with such benefits.

Maine:

H.P. 1274-L.D. 1804, An Act to Restructure the State's Electric Industry, Chapter 316 of Public Law, signed into law May 29, 1997.

• Employee Assistance. Before offering retail access, each investor-owned electric utility must prepare a plan for providing transition services and benefits for eligible employees. The plan must include: 1) A program to assist eligible employees in maintaining fringe benefits and obtaining employment that makes use of their potential; 2) Retraining and outplacement services and benefits to eligible employees (for 2 years after retail choice begins); and 3) Full tuition (2 years) at the University of Maine.

• Merger Succession. If an investor-owned electric utility (or its subsidiary or parent) is a party to a collective bargaining agreement, then any successor must continue to recognize and bargain with the union representing the employees of the company at the time, and mus

t refrain from making unilateral changes in the employees' terms and conditions of employment.

New York:

Senate Bill 5469, introduced June 11, 1997.

• Asset Divestiture. In reviewing utility plans to sell generation, transmission or distribution facilities, PSC must require utilities to consult with employees to establish an worker transition plan. Plan must assist employees in maintaining or obtaining employment and benefits at a comparable level ...

• Collective Bargaining. Forbids impairment of any collective bargaining agreement.

Assembly Bill 7942 (em B "Competition Plus," introduced May 14, 1997.

• Pilot Choice Programs. PSC cannot approve pilot program involving specific non-residential customers without significant commitment to job creation or retention commitment.

• Plant Divestiture. Utilities selling off generating plant must contract with purchaser to operate and maintain facility for at least 2 years.

• Worker Transition. Utilities must consult employees, or where applicable, collective bargaining units, to provide skills upgrades, apprenticeship and training programs, plus voluntary separation packages consistent with reasonable business practices and job banks.

Illinois:

Amendment to Senate Bill 55 (passed in the Assembly, pending in the Senate, October vote anticipated).

• Declaration of Rights. Law notes state's interest in protecting the interests of utility employees, who "have dedicated themselves to assuring reliable service to the citizens of this state, and who might otherwise be economically displaced in a restructured industry."

• Mitigation Rights. Utility restructuring must mitigate effects on employees and their communities "to the extent practicable" through voluntary severance, retraining, early retirement, outplacement and related benefits.

• Plant Sale. Agreement must ensure a "sufficient number" of non-supervisory employees to operator or maintain the plant, at "no less than wage rates, and substantially equivalent fringe benefits and terms and conditions of

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