The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has been operating at a 34% below revenue since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the corporation was able to ensure that all its employees stayed at 80 hours, says CUC executive director Gary Camacho.
In a recent appearance before the House Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications Committee meeting, Camacho said that CUC has been operating at times 34% below revenue since last year. He declined to state a dollar figure. The CNMI went into lockdown in mid-March last year.
Despite this challenge, CUC was able to ensure that all its staff are making 80 hours up to this day, Camacho said, thanks to several cost-cutting measures. He said he also notified his staff early in 2020 that there would be multiple challenges the corporation would face in the ensuing months.
“We’ve made some adjustments. We’ve made some sacrifices over the last year, but it was a unified effort. We had a number of meetings with staff and made it clear to them early in 2020 what we were up against and knew the challenges were going to multiply until the economy is back,” said Camacho.
He said if they weren’t able to ensure that CUC had the workforce required to perform repairs, to safely operate and maintain the power, water, and wastewater infrastructure on all three islands, then this would have caused them to defer many projects and jeopardize federal funding.
“As everyone is aware, CUC operates a number of power plants. You can’t take 10%, 20% of the staff out of a power plant without raising risk and putting those people in danger. …This is the same with linemen and water and wastewater personnel,” said Camacho.
In separate interview, Camacho clarified that the risk factors is that if a project needs five employees to operate safely and you take away two, the remaining three would be at risk for injuries. Cost-cutting, Camacho said, was the only way to ensure that the CUC staff would remain at 80 hours and projects wouldn’t be deferred.
“We were already very limited and our personnel and that’s why our efforts were trying to ensure that we had 80 hours for the limited people that we had on board and we were able to do that,” said Camacho. “For the most part, I think we’ve been doing well considering we’ve been operating below revenue.”