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The Oregonian — letters to the Editor

PGE needs morale fix, accountable local control

04/15/03

DAVE COVINGTON

It is just amazing to see Portland General Electric executives touting all their collective years of utility experience as though this company could not survive without them.

Now I'm just a journeyman lineman for this outfit, but in my 23 years of experience working for PGE I have never seen this company treat its employees so terribly. I've seen a lot of management come and go, but these last few years since Enron crashed have been the pits.

So what have all our utility experts done for PGE lately? They still haven't invested in enough generation, even though Trojan was closed almost 10 years ago. They have slowly downsized their field workers while upsizing office and management personnel. They have spent millions changing out various computer systems. They have moved most of the Portland line crews to the suburbs, leaving only six crews to handle some of the oldest distribution wire systems in the company.

The real scary thing at the moment is that the Public Utility Commission (with PGE's blessing) seems to be more concerned about phone lines crossing over secondary power lines (not that big a deal) than the approximately 100 rotting old high-line poles that need to be changed. PGE has been very lucky the last few years that there has not been a severe storm. You can hire all the expert executives you want, but when the wire hits the ground it will be the line crews that will be working the long hours to restore the power.

PGE has some of the hardest-working, most-dedicated line workers in the utility business. But you wouldn't know it with all this extra management tripping all over each other tooting their own horns. Morale could not get much worse at this outfit. I think it is high time for serious change at PGE. We need real local control with accountability, too.

It's hard to imagine that PGE's ratepayers consider their local utility to be a good corporate citizen when it engages in tax avoidance schemes as reported on the front page of The Oregonian ("PGE pays $10 in tax to Oregon for 2002," April 11). PGE executives like to blame Enron for all the bad stuff, like lost retirements, and then praise themselves for some of the good stuff, like volunteerism.

Believe me, whatever happens with PGE ownership, there will still be lots of great employees volunteering in their communities. Dave Covington of Northeast Portland is a journeyman lineman for PGE

 

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