Job losses won't affect our winter supply: NIE
Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) has said plans to shed around 120 jobs in a bid to cut costs will not affect its ability to preserve supply during bad weather.
NIE, which owns the transmission and distribution network for electricity, currently employs around 1,200 people but will lose around one-tenth of its workforce.
Plans to increase bills to customers so that it could invest more in its business were rebuffed by competition authorities in a decision known as a price control determination last month.
A spokeswoman said: "NIE is introducing a voluntary selective redundancy scheme with the aim of reducing staff numbers by 10% (approximately 120 employees).
"The scheme is being introduced in response to a significant reduction in its operating cost allowances under the recent price control determination.
"NIE is discussing the scheme with staff and unions. There will be no compulsory redundancies."
But economist John Simpson said the job cuts could put customers at risk. "The recent determination has left NIE with a tighter budget than they would have liked, and this is how they are trying to cope with it," he said.
"But if they downsize their permanent staff, how much does this increase the risk that they will not be able to come with a winter emergency?"
However, NIE said that the voluntary scheme would be handled so that "sufficient skills, knowledge and experience remain within the organisation".
The spokeswoman said it would continue to have 'mutual aid' agreements with engineers in neighbouring jurisdictions to help cope in bad weather.
Jimmy Kelly, regional secretary of trade union Unite, claimed the job cuts were "driven by the need to protect the company's shareholders' profits".
He said Unite wanted the Northern Ireland Assembly to take NIE into public ownership.