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Generation’s staffing program helped place majority of employees affected by unit retirements

by on October 5, 2015
Former Kammer Plant employees (from left) Mark Huffman, Jim Smith and Bill Costello. Huffman is retired; Smith and Costello transferred to Mitchell Plant.

(Story by Tom Holliday)

The recent retirement of 23 generating units at nine AEP power plants marked the end of an era for the company and for many of the men and women who spent their careers working at one or more of the “disposition” generating units.

Thanks to the efforts of the Generation leadership team working in close cooperation with AEP’s Human Resources professionals, the retirements translated into new opportunities for more than 260 power plant workers affected by the plant closings. Many employees expressed an interest learning the outcome of Generation’s efforts to assist those workers. Dan Lee, senior vice president – Fossil & Hydro Generation, recently shared the details during a Generation employee webcast.

The plant and unit closings were part of AEP’s overall plan for complying with the Mercury Air Toxics Standards for existing power plants, approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December 2011. “We started working on plans to minimize the impact on our workers in early 2012,” said Lee. “As soon as we knew we would be retiring those units, we started trying to find ways to provide opportunities for our employees to find other positions either within Generation or other areas of the company.”

The goal of the Generation Disposition Staffing Program was to estimate the attrition that the plants remaining in service would experience over time, and identify the level of staffing that would be needed in 2015 when the retirements would occur.

“During 2013 and 2014, we were able to post nearly 250 positions for future vacancies at the plants that would continue operating in 2015 and beyond,” said Leslie Rittenhouse, HR Generation & Energy Supply manager. As a result, 133 employees were identified for a future position, while they continued to work at their retiring unit.

That allowed the disposition units to maintain a measure of employment stability during the transition years. At the same time it would provide the employees who accepted new assignments with some assurance about their employment future once their current plant or unit was officially retired.

Glen Lyn Plant employees posed for a group photo at an appreciation luncheon in May.

For Brent Murray, plant system owner-principal, a move from Tanners Creek Plant to Rockport was a very positive experience. “Everyone has treated me like family and gone out of their way to make me feel at home,” he said. “I was really concerned and had several sleepless nights about starting over after 27 years at one location and how I would be accepted . Those fears were put to rest my very first day on the job.

“I am currently living here (near Rockport) during the week and going home on the weekends when I can because my youngest son is a senior in high school and is staying with my wife at our farm until he graduates,” Murray explained. “That has been the hardest part of my relocation because I miss them tremendously and have never been away for an extended period of time before. But I consider myself very fortunate that Rockport has given me an opportunity to finish my career with AEP. I count my blessings every day.”

Tim Hunt, now an FGD (Flue Gas Desulfurization) supervisor at Mountaineer, echoed Murray’s comment when talking about his move from the Kanawha River Plant. “My transition’s gone great. The people at Mountaineer have been great and I’ve not had any problems picking up my new work responsibilities,” he said. At Kanawha River, Hunt worked in operations and was used to working different shifts. In his new role, Hunt works the day shift Monday through Friday and says the change has been a good one.

“I’ll have 37 years of service with AEP in a while, and I was a little worried when they announced the staffing program because I wasn’t sure they’d want to go through so much trouble for someone in my situation,” Hunt explained. “I still want to work several more years and I’m tickled that I got an offer.” Hunt is enjoying the added benefit of a shorter work commute. His drive to Mountaineer is about 20 miles shorter than his drive to Kanawha River.

In addition to the employees who were placed through the formal staffing program, 135 affected employees transferred to other plants before the launch of the program, and to other business units within AEP. Employees from the retired units are now working not only in Generation, but in Distribution, Transmission, Human Resources, Generation Engineering Services and Cook Nuclear Plant.

Of the employees who received, or are scheduled to receive a severance package, more than 80 percent are retirement-eligible.

“No one wants to hear that their job is going away,” said Lee. “But I firmly believe the program went a long way to reduce the stress, anxiety and disruption that employees faced when they learned the units would have to be retired. In the final analysis, I think the program was a great success and helped us demonstrate how much we value and respect our employees.”

From → News From AEP

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