Progress Energy and Duke Energy moved a step closer to cutting staff by notifying workers this afternoon that both companies will offer a voluntary buyout program later this year.
The two electric utilities, which announced a corporate merger in January, expect to shed employees through buyouts and layoffs as they integrate business divisions and cut costs. Raleigh-based Progress and Charlotte-based Duke expect to complete the merger this year, after receiving regulatory approval from state and federal agencies.
Progress sent an e-mail notice this afternoon to all 11,000 workers in the Carolinas and Florida. The eligibility requirements for the voluntary buyout will be announced this fall, but they will target employees in endangered jobs.
"The intent would be to focus eligibility largely on employees in positions that are redundant," said spokesman Mike Hughes. "It's truly an effort to have fewer people who are outplaced at the end of this [merger]. We have committed to minimizing layoffs as the organizations are integrated."
The number affected will be partly determined by how many workers can find other jobs in the interim. Already dozens have left the utilities in search of other opportunities as uncertainty looms in the corporate towers in Raleigh and Charlotte.
It will be a second major voluntary buyout program at Progress in recent years, on the heels of losing nearly 1,450 senior workers in a buyout five years ago. So many took the offer last round that Progress had to hire 1,000 employees.
In this round, however, the buyout program will not be limited to employees who are approaching retirement age, but open to workers of all ages.
However, thousands of positions are not likely to be affected, particularly linemen and power plant operators.
Positions to be affected include such corporate office functions as human resources, legal, finance, communications and others that will become redundant when the two companies combine operations in one headquarters in Charlotte.
Duke and Progress workers will be offered the same terms for eligibility and severance.
"Few specifics at this point," Hughes said. "No goal or target number."