CUC justifies its 383 staff

The number of Commonwealth Utilities Corp. employees has significantly grown to 383 full-time personnel last fiscal year.

Chief financial officer Charles Warren said the bulk of the number, or 165, are assigned at the power division, while 72 work for the water division. CUC also employs 20 for wastewater, 11 at engineering, and the rest are administration staff.

Records obtained by Saipan Tribune show that the current number is the highest personnel count recorded by CUC in the last four years, from fiscal years 2010 through 2013.

In fiscal year 2010, CUC had only 307 FTEs with total personnel cost to CUC of $10.036 million. In fiscal year 2011, CUC’s personnel count went up a bit to 325, bumping up personnel cost to $11.001 million. A year later, 17 more employees were added to the CUC workforce, bringing its total FTEs to 341 in fiscal year 2012, costing the agency $12.1 million.

According to Warren’s presentation, actual personnel cost in fiscal year 2013 amounted to $11.7 million—an actual decrease from fiscal 2012’s cost of $12.1 million. This came despite CUC hiring 41 more personnel that year.

Warren said the additional hires are for the power plants and distribution area. He bared that the agency is now training more workers due to immigration uncertainties that would impact about 30 foreign employees.

In 2012, additional support staff was also hired for the customer service department, which he said is doing a “pretty good job” in reducing customer backlogs. One of that is in the area of receivables and disputes where CUC was able to bring down the disputed account from $30 million to $7 million.

CUC has been criticized for “unnecessary hiring and overstaffing.” It has been suggested that personnel and other operational expenses be reduced to prevent rate increases.

But for CUC legal counsel James Sirok, even if CUC cuts 20 to 25 percent of its personnel count, the impact to the rate will be nominal at just 23 cents.

Warren justified the need to keep the 383 staff to continue the progress of the utility agency. “Staffing increase is directly related to the stipulated orders. Example are the SO-certified positions for water and wastewater division that were non-existent before,” Warren said.

He also pointed out that CUC’s average compensation has remained flat for the last four years. CUC, he said, is in the process of doing a compensation study for its personnel in comparison to other utility agencies with similar sizes of operation.

Moneth G. Deposa | Reporter

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