Top officials of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. and Pacific Marine & Industrial Corp. celebrated yesterday their long years of partnership in a ceremony that also saw the attendance of the latter’s employees.
CUC formally took over ownership and operation of Power Plant 4 in Puerto Rico last Saturday following the execution of the $7.25-million buyout deal of PMIC’s contract.
PMIC director Marcin Ostrowski, in his short speech yesterday, expressed the company’s appreciation to all its employees who have worked and served the company throughout these years. He hosted a special luncheon yesterday at 360 Revolving Restaurant.
PMIC’s original contract as independent power producer for CUC was supposed to expire in July 2016. However, the contract gave CUC an option for a buyout deal.
Ostrowski disclosed to Saipan Tribune that negotiations for the buyout took many months. Under the deal, CUC will pay in installment the $7.25 million in a 27-month term, or roughly $331,000 per month. This is same amount being paid to PMIC under the current contract regardless if Power Plant 4 is operational or not.
Ostrowski admitted to Saipan Tribune that negotiations did not come as easy as many may have thought. He shared that “disputes” arose during the negotiations on some issues. But he said, they opted to solve them in a civilized manner which would be beneficial to both parties.
Ostrowski attributed the “good end result” of the negotiations to the leadership of former CUC executive director Abe Malae and his leadership team, namely acting executive director Alan Fletcher, chief financial officer Charles Warren, and deputy director for power system Wallon Young.
He said Warren did a good job in coming up with justified “figures” that led to the final agreement. The top official admitted that in the past, PMIC encountered difficulty in dealing with past CUC leaderships. Meaningful meetings, he said, only started in 2010 resulting in a good partnership between the two companies.
According to Warren, the buyout deal will save CUC over $5 million until 2016-the supposed termination of the original PMIC contract. He said once installment payments are made in less than three years, this may result to a lower rate for CUC customers as CUC will have additional revenue for operation.
CUC plans to shut down Power Plant 4 and it will serve only as emergency backup, which means significant savings for CUC.
Transfer of employees
Saipan Tribune learned that 26 employees were working at Power Plant 4 at the time of the buyout. Twelve of them are directly hired by PMIC, while 14 were employed by PMIC’s local partner, Triple L company.
Ostrowski yesterday disclosed the plans for affected workforce and assured their smooth transition. He revealed that part of the agreement’s condition is to transfer affected employees to CUC’s management.
During the transition, Ostrowski said PMIC will keep the employees under its payroll. “Their jobs will be kept until they are transferred to CUC,” he told Saipan Tribune.
Former PMIC employees interviewed yesterday said they were relieved on the “promise” made by Ostrowski.
Cesar Puig and Geraldo Biniahan, an electrician and a mechanic, respectively, said nothing but good words for PMIC which they said has shown commitment and care to their employees. They’re hopeful that everyone will be transferred to CUC.
Ostrowski told Saipan Tribune that last week, PMIC employees were asked to fill in employment application forms which the company submitted to CUC. The same process, he said, was also conducted for Triple L. In acknowledging that no promise has been made by CUC on these applications, Ostrowski is confident that his former staff will be considered as they are all highly qualified and skilled professionals.
CUC acting executive director Alan Fletcher said CUC intends to hire 12 people whom he described as highly skilled and could continue working for CUC. However, he emphasized that nothing has been final yet as negotiations and processing are ongoing.
It was also revealed that CUC has received a requirement to fill 15 more technical administrative slots which affected employees may come in.
“We are now assessing all the workforce needs at PMIC and CUC and see where we can merge those together. No final determination has been made, but we know that they have a solid professional team and good technical workforce. CUC would like to utilize those talents as it can,” he said after yesterday’s ceremony.
Fletcher also acknowledged PMIC’s great help during CUC’s bad times, when rolling blackouts and power interruptions were the norm in previous years.