Business Manager: Russell Harper ( )

John Fernandes' Statement to PURA Regarding the Rate Case

Last night John Fernandes spoke at the rate case hearing in New London during the public comment portion of the evening. Here’s what he said:

Good Evening, my name is John Fernandes, Business Manager of IBEW Local 457. Our Local represents workers at CL&P. We also represent workers at Yankee Gas, Montville Power Plant, First Light Energy, and Norwich and Wallingford municipalities.  While many people have stood by and watched deregulation play out, we, along with the residents of Connecticut, have suffered as a result of that decision.  It’s turned this industry into a grab for cash.

Now with the merger of NU and NStar, the problems have escalated and accelerated. Since the merger, senior officials have been taking tens of millions of dollars for themselves, yet the merged company has laid off workers, closed customer service centers, and they continue to contract work out because they refuse to hire new employees while the need continues to grow.  Are the purported savings of the merger coming at the expense of the plant and equipment already paid for by the residents of Connecticut and on the backs of the slowly diminishing workforce?

In their request they want money to pre-stage crews for storms.  The problem is this isn’t the only company operating this way so the well for qualified workers is drying up. There aren’t enough crews to go around so other companies are reluctant to give up resources. Additionally, Vice President Ken Bowes testified that they need money for a new Troubleshooter program they have started.  They claim they are basing their costs on current employees, yet they are currently using contractors at three to four times the cost of their own employees to the tune of over $500,000 per week.  These very contractors are billing CL&P for vehicles and equipment when they are actually using CL&P vehicles and equipment. That’s outrageous. 

Mr. Bowes also testified that the labor unions would not agree to change work practices to 24/7 coverage. That is inaccurate because we have had 24/7 coverage in the past and the reason it failed and they stopped is because they didn’t staff it properly and that is where you, the commission of PURA, need to step in. There needs to be a mandated level of staffing in this utility.  It’s the only way they can function properly to address the daily workload as well as respond to the normal emergencies and not be reliant on the availability of another company’s workforce, which comes at twice the price. 

We understand it takes money to run this asset-laden business but it also takes a skilled workforce. They should not be allowed to continually contract out work, the results of which can be substandard. The only way they’ll be driven to success is if you’re behind the wheel.
The atmosphere within this company these days is that there is a firesale going on. They are selling off and contracting out on every front. At what point does this house of cards fall? Our ask is that this commission set some staffing levels to be maintained otherwise this utility will become a shadow of its former self.  The residents of this state are paying the price both literally and figuratively. Everyone has a vested interest in this regulated company being run properly so that there is such a thing as reliable service.  We deserve better and you have the authority to make that happen.

Thank you for your consideration.