AUGUSTA (WGME) – Central Maine Power and union workers have reached an agreement under which the company will add dozens of new employees immediately and dozens more by 2024.
While union leaders and lawmakers who have been critical of the utility company think this a move by CMP to try and right the ship, company officials said it is about building for the future.
Union leaders said they have been advocating for higher staffing levels at CMP for years and now there is an agreement in place to do just that.
“We think this is long overdue,” said Dick Rogers, local IBEW union business manager.
Union leaders said the new agreement will add nearly 120 employees at CMP within the next few years. They said this will improve customer service, safety, and restoration efforts by adding 51 new line workers.
“This will have a huge effect on righting the ship,” Rogers said. “It is an important step that CMP should have taken 10 years ago.”
State Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, who is co-chairman of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, said the lack of staffing was obvious during the 2017 wind storm.
“There were out of state workers who were sitting in parking lots for up to two days being paid overtime and wanting to help but they couldn’t because we didn’t have the local line workers to direct their efforts,” Berry said.
Despite CMP’s having agreed to hire more employees, Berry said he still plans to introduce legislation this session to replace CMP and Emera Maine with a consumer-owned utility.
“It doesn’t fix the underlying problem, which is that our power continues to be controlled from Spain and not from Maine. And we’re paying as much as 13 percent interest on many of the capital expenditures — the poles, the wires, etcetera — when we should be paying more like 3 percent,” Berry said.
CMP spokeswoman Catharine Hartnett said the staffing agreement is in no way a response to Berry’s bill.
“This agreement responds to our ongoing business needs and has absolutely nothing to do with anything going on in the legislature right now,” Hartnett said. She said the purpose of the workforce expansion is to improve customer service and outage response time.
“Certainly in terms of being able to repair outages and get people’s power on faster, that will enable us to do that,” she said.
CMP officials said state regulators already approved the first 60 positions but that approval is still needed for the additional 59 employees.