Plumas Sierra Rural Electric Coop announces layoffs

Diana Jorgenson
Portola Editor

Citing the country's economic downturn, Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative, which provides electricity to many rural areas in Plumas, Sierra and Lassen counties, announced Friday it would lay off between nine and 10 employees, effective March 31.

General Manager Bob Marshall issued the following statement. "Recently Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative went through a reduction-in-force process. We have reduced our staffing levels over the past 18 months through retirements, attrition and now voluntary and involuntary layoffs. The downturn of the economy affected both the electric side of our business and the telecommunications subsidiaries. I'd like to thank the affected employees for their hard work over the years."

PS-REC is one of the largest employers in eastern Plumas County and employed 76 employees at its peak, some hired in anticipation of upcoming retirements.

High unemployment rates and the general downturn in the county impacted telecommunications subsidiaries, while the loss of local construction upended expected growth in electrical usage.

Six jobs were excised in the past 18 months through attrition and retirements, leaving 70 employees currently.

Marshall said he was working with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to develop a "soft landing" plan for affected workers, a plan that includes a severance package. In addition, he said the company was actively trying to place workers with other local employers. One, possibly two, employees found employment with Eastern Plumas Health Care thus far.

"It's purely economic," Marshall said. "These are good workers."

PSREC looked first to employees who might choose an early retirement, or even choose to be laid off. Marshall is currently working through the union's process, sorting through seniorities to make the cuts. As it has worked out so far, co-op staff in Lassen County and in Quincy will not be affected.

Marshall estimated he is still a week away from knowing the exact number of the layoffs or which workers will be affected.

Marshall was hopeful about the future, saying the co-op applied for stimulus funds and was actively pursuing greater broadband capabilities, which he thought were critical to attracting businesses and new employers to the area.

If the economy does a turn around, the co-op will replace those lost jobs, Marshall said, but cautioned it would be awhile.

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