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Robert Trigaux

Talk of job layoffs, downsizing looms as Progress Energy-Duke Energy merger nears

progress-energylogo.jpgWake up and good morning. We're getting closer to the time when Duke Energy's purchase of Progress Energy will actually happen. And that means job cuts are on the way, as happens with almost any merger of two similar companies. And Progress Energy Florida workers will not be spared.

Last week, Progress Energy's hometown newspaper in Raleigh, N.C., reported that Progress and Duke, which announced their union in January, sent email notices Wednesday -- Progress to 11,000 employees in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, and Duke to 17,000 workers in the North Carolina, South Carolina and Midwest.

"We're trying to give employees as much time to think through these things, to talk things over with their spouses," Progress spokesman Mike Hughes told the News & Observer. "It's truly an effort to have fewer people who are outplaced at the end of this process. We have committed to minimizing layoffs as the organizations are integrated."

duke-energy-logo-med.jpgIn other words, Progress Energy and Duke Energy told workers Wednesday that both companies will offer voluntary buyouts this fall as the state's largest electric utilities prepare for their planned merger. Consider taking the buyouts, the companies say, or face the possibility of being downsized later.

It's not clear yet how many Progress Energy workers in Florida may be cut. The good news is that Duke Energy does not operate in Florida, so that lack of overlap in the Sunshine State (opposed to the Carolinas, where Progress Energy and Duke both have big operations) may minimize the pain. The bad news is that Duke is spending big bucks to buy Progress Energy and cost savings will be paramount. If you're not essential personnel at Progress Energy Florida, you will probably be vulnerable to losing your job.

A decade ago, the merger between Carolina Power & Light and St. Petersburg-based Florida Progress that created Progress Energy eliminated about 1,300 positions, mostly in Florida. Duke's 2006 acquisition of Cinergy in the Midwest led to more than 1,500 positions cut.

Hughes told the Ocala Star Banner that layoffs would likely begin in early 2012. He said the layoffs would mostly focus on such support jobs as those found in the legal departments, accounting, communications and media, IT and human resources. "We have a number of these positions in Florida and even more in Raleigh," Hughes said. Least affected would be the people in operations.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 5, 2011 9:59am]


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