Duke Energy and Progress Energy have fine-tuned their staff-reduction estimates in their pending merger as the two North Carolina companies continue working on their merger integration plan.
The two electric utilities told the N.C. Utilities Commission today they expect to eliminate 1,860 positions over three years. That's down from an earlier estimate that placed the maximum potential staff reduction size at 2,000.
The N.C. Utilities Commission, which is reviewing the proposed merger, requested the updated data. Merger critics argue that the enormity of the staff cuts during one of the most severe economic downturns in decades means the merger is not a public benefit for the state.
Charlotte-based Duke and Raleigh-based Progress also disclosed that they expect 347 workers would be laid off or would leave on their own over the next three years, but the layoff total will depend on how many workers leave on their own. Those laid off will be redundant workers who did not take an early buyout offer or did not leave for another job.
It's still not clear where the cuts will come from, but Progress has said it will shed hundreds of workers in downtown Raleigh as it dismantles its corporate headquarters here.
The companies have been working on their integration since announcing in January they plan to form the nation's largest electric utility.
The merger also requires approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has weighing concerns that the merger would give the combined company monopoly powers to manipulate electricity prices.
The scope of layoffs is still unclear. It will ultimately be determined by the number of employees who voluntarily leave the company. The companies are encouraging workers to leave for other jobs so that they can limit the pain of layoffs and so that they can limit the amount of severance payments.
Duke and Progress told the N.C. Utilities Commission that this month 8,177 employees at both companies have been offered a voluntary severance plan, also known as a buyout offer. These employees would be offered a severance payment.
Company officials expect 14 percent to leave through buyouts, but if more than 14 percent leave, then the layoffs will not be as severe.
Currently, the companies are operating with 368 vacancies, largely created by employees who opted to find another job rather than play a game of chance with buyouts and layoffs.