In union circles, they call it "burial insurance." That apt phrase denotes the severance, early retirement and re-training packages negotiated for veteran utility workers sideswiped by a changing...
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should utility executives of the future have?
A good example is 9/11 because we had very well-trained people to work during an emergency, and under difficult respiratory conditions. We were able to put 2,000 people on the street the next day and start to rebuild lower Manhattan. That took a lot of skill, a lot of commitment and a lot of bravery, frankly, in a lot of cases. Utility people have a service mentality. When we started restructuring in New York 10 or more years ago, a lot of people advised me. They said it was going to be a new world and that I had better make up my mind that half of the people I have wouldn't have the skills to work in this new world. I was told that I would be better off letting them go and going out and hiring people with the right skills. We said no, we don't agree with that. We know who we have. We know their work ethic and we know their loyalty to the company. So, we went and built a learning center. We have a school, a sizeable school. We send hundreds of people a day, even today, through this school. We retrained our people in the new skill sets that would be needed going forward, and it has worked very well through this transition.
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