PGE workers antsy despite corporate reassurance


Portland General Electric lineman Steve Lacey said there's 'real skepticism' about the Texas Pacific Group after learning this week of its potential plans to trim staff and operations if it purchases the utility.

'We have no voice in our future,' Lacey said. 'We don't understand why it has to be so top secret. It's stressful, detrimental to the work force and to customers.'

Texas Pacific released 700 pages of confidential documents Ñ which included the proposed cuts Ñ Monday to prove that it had nothing to hide in its $2.35 billion offer for PGE. The Oregon Public Utility Commission is expected to make a decision on the sale later this month.

Lacey, one of 900 union workers for PGE, said despite e-mail and memo assurances that everything is OK from PGE Chief Executive Officer Peggy Fowler, the general consensus is 'we've been burned so many times that trust is a real issue, and with trust goes morale.'

Said another lineman, Dave Covington: 'The union brothers aren't happy with it. We feel we're being sold out.'

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers spokesman Bill Miller did not respond by deadline. Among the departments singled out for reductions: customer service, human resources and information technology.

PGE Vice President Carol Dillin said managers also will be holding meetings this week to discuss the issue. 'We've been through so much uncertainty,' she said.

In a message recorded last week, Fowler and Peter Kohler, chairman of Texas Pacific's holding company, Oregon Electric, downplayed the Texas Pacific documents.

'I want you to know how distressing I find the implication TPG does not value and respect PGE employees,' Kohler said, referring to the $7 million due diligence report, of which the leaked documents were a part.

As the proposed chairman of the prospective board, 'I can assure you this will not be the basis for our operational plans,' Kohler said.

The call can be heard by dialing 503-612-3800.

PGE staff members have seen a succession of potential new owners, from Sierra Pacific's abandoned 1999 offer to the unrealized 2003 sale to NW Natural to the December 2003 bankruptcy of its parent company, Enron Corp.

Dillin said the Texas Pacific report Ñ the research for which was completed in August 2003 Ñ doesn't 'reflect changes and studies that have been done in recent years. We've had a 10 percent reduction in management since that time. We have hundreds of ways we're continuing to improve our operations and efficiencies. This is not an overall picture of where PGE is today. We want the opportunity for further analysis.'

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