Lawmakers on Thursday demanded more information from Northeast Utilities about reports that is it outsourcing hundreds of information technology jobs from Connecticut.
House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, in a press conference surrounded by other legislators, listed his questions for the utility. How would the outsourcing affect jobs in Connecticut? How would moving important electronic functions elsewhere impact cyber security? Would the outsourcing hurt the company's ability to respond to severe weather?
"These are some questions that Northeast Utilities needs to answer," said Aresimowicz, who has met with company officials twice in the past two weeks. "Connecticut residents have the right to know."
Tricia Modifica, a spokeswoman for the utility, said in a statement afterward that the company would share information with regulators and employees "when the time comes."
Under one scenario, employees say, the utility could eliminate most of its 405 information technology jobs in New England — 281 employees in Connecticut alone — splitting the work between the two IT firms.
The employees, who spoke with The Courant on the condition of anonymity, said they were told in meetings that two IT companies had been chosen by Northeast Utilities to take over the department's functions and that the final details of the deal were being worked out.
The electric and gas utility — whose divisions include Yankee Gas and Connecticut Light & Power — acknowledged earlier this month that it was looking into "streamlining" the department, but it would not say whether outsourcing was being considered and would not answer questions about the potential move's effect on employees.
Although the companies said to be bidding for the work are based in India, it's unclear how many jobs would be transferred overseas or to other locations.
The calls for transparency join those of state officials that have stepped away unsatisfied from meetings with the utility in recent weeks. On Friday, the state's attorney general and consumer counsel asked regulators to examine whether outsourcing complies with the agreement that authorized NU's recent merger with NStar. The officials also asked whether outsourcing would affect storm response.
Modifica, in the company statement, said, "As a result of our merger we are in the process of evaluating opportunities to streamline and improve IT functions so that we can deliver a high level of service to our customers at the least cost."
The utility told regulators that the merger would result in $780 million in efficiencies between the two companies.
The legislators gathered in a meeting room in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford said their constituents have raised concerns about the utility's decision.
"Shipping jobs overseas doesn't just affect Connecticut's economy," Aresimowicz said. "There are security concerns about computers that run the electric grid. How would outsourcing jobs to foreign countries affect that?"
Rep. Lonnie Reed, chair of the legislature's energy and technology committee, said that the lack of solid information from the utility runs counter to its agreement with state officials about the merger.
"When NU and NStar were creating the architecture for their merger, one promise the leadership gave us is if there were to be workforce reductions, it would be by attrition and retirements," she said, adding that the agreement also spelled notice that the company would give to state officials of reductions.
"Here's another example of them not giving up front notice," Reed said. "There's a process and they did not adhere to the process they promised."
Also at the press conference were State Reps David Alexander, James Albis, Catherine Abercrombie, Angel Arce, Joe Aresimowicz, Mike Demicco, Joe Diminico, Matthew Lesser, Philip Miller, Russ Morin, Sandy Nafis, Betsy Ritter, and Melissa Ziobron., Betsy Ritter, and Melissa Ziobron.