Constellation offers early retirement to 130

Utility plans in Jan. to trim workers at BGE subsidiary

November 03, 2001|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Just days after reversing its plan to split into two independent businesses, Constellation Energy Group Inc. offered early retirement packages to 130 employees this week.

Additional workers will be trimmed in January from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., according to company officials. They said there is no target for how many positions need to be cut. It was also unclear how much money Constellation could save through the voluntary buyouts.

The buyouts come shortly after Constellation announced Oct. 26 that it had abandoned its plan to separate the company into two holding companies, each with its own management and staff. With the decision to remain one company, top executives said there is a need now to cut costs and eliminate duplicate positions.

"With softening wholesale prices for electricity, we must control costs to remain competitive," said Nancy Caplan, a Constellation spokeswoman. "We're trying to be cost competitive in the most compassionate way. We have had a process in place for months now to evaluate all of our businesses."

Those eligible for the early retirements are in the company's subsidiary, Constellation Power Source Generation, which employs 950 and owns 12 fossil and hydroelectric power plants that were previously owned by BGE. The plants were transferred to the unregulated affiliate in July 2000 when electric restructuring began in the Baltimore region.

As part of the early-retirement plan, anyone 55 or older with at least 10 years of service is eligible and all positions - including administrative, engineering, support services, maintenance and mechanics - are included in the offer.

Employees who accept the buyout will receive a supplemental pension benefit, flexible credits for benefit packages, 60 days of outplacement counseling service to help them find other work and $3,000 from Constellation for educational assistance if they decide to go back to college.

The deadline for accepting the package is Dec. 16.

As for cuts at BGE, Caplan said: "We can't say now how many more jobs will be cut, but I can say every single business within the company is going through a similar planning and evaluation process to manage cost reductions."

The company had begun splitting its staff, offices and resources to function as two separate holding companies shortly after announcing in October 2000 that it would split into two publicly traded companies, one a fast-growth, unregulated business that would generate and sell power nationwide and the other a regional electric company called BGE Corp.

Constellation employs about 8,000, with most of its workers based in Maryland. Some of them are nervous.

"I WISH I HAD A UNION," wrote a worker with the user-name olebhall, in a message posted at 4:49 p.m. yesterday on the Yahoo! message board for Constellation. "I don't know where this company is headed, but I sure wish I had some job protections."

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