Lawmakers this week are taking a closer look at the proposed merger of Central Vermont Public Service and Green Mountain Power.
And a group of state senators worries that most of the savings from the merger would come from eliminating jobs just as the state tries to recover from the recession.
GMP officials say a key part of their merger with CVPS is the $144 million in savings that consumers will benefit from over the next 10 years.
GMP spokesperson Dottie Schnure said the goal is to streamline the utilities’ operations.
"We’ll be able to run the company more efficiently," Schnure said. "As it is now, our line workers cross each other on the road. We have service centers that are located a mile from each other. We’ll be able to consolidate our operations in many ways."
Schnure said the largest savings will come from a having a reduced work force. The goal is to eliminate roughly 120 jobs. But she says these reductions won’t come in the form of layoffs.
"We’re not doing this in the standard Wall Street merger where people come in and immediately make cuts. We’re doing this over time as people leave their jobs normally, as people make decisions to retire," said Schnure.
That pledge doesn’t satisfy Senate President John Campbell. He said the net result is that Vermont will lose more than 100 good-paying jobs.
"The last thing we want to do as a state is to put people on the street without jobs," said Campbell. "I think it’s time the curtain is taken back on this whole deal as we start looking at what is in the best interests of Vermonters."
Rutland Senator Kevin Mullen has been a vocal opponent of the merger, in part, because of the loss of jobs.
"If you take a look at where these savings are, they’re through restructuring the company and creating fewer positions," said Mullen. "In an era where we’re talking about trying to create jobs, if we’re going to be proud of $144 million in cut jobs and employment, I think it’s despicable."
Schnure said Campbell and Mullen are missing a key point. She said GMP is "a job enabler not a job creator."
And she said the best way to help the economy is to keep rates as low as possible.
"It enables our customers throughout the state to be more competitive and for them to bring more jobs into the region," said Schnure. "But that’s really what drives a thriving economy, to do it in that way as opposed to loading up the utility with a lot of additional jobs that we don’t need."
Key lawmakers are expected to decide this week if they want to express their concerns about the merger to the Public Service Board in legislation or in the form of a non-binding resolution.