Utility sets IT department on path to self-destruction

Northeast Utilities tells IT employees it may shift work to overseas firm, but hasn't set deal or severance plan if it comes to it

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"I think, at this point, I really do feel it's a done deal," said Aresimowicz of NU's outsourcing intentions. But he's still holding out hope that something can be done to prevent or limit the IT outsourcing.

Other than to confirm that NU is considering the possibility of outsourcing its IT operations, a utility spokesman declined to discuss any details concerning its plans.

It's uncertain how much leverage the state government has to encourage or require NU keep the IT jobs in the U.S. The utility is regulated, but it's also a private company. Last year, Hartford-based NU merged with another utility, Boston-based NSTAR, to create an electric and natural gas utility with 3.5 million customers in three states. At the time of this announcement, the newly merged companies said they expect $780 million in savings from the merger over 10 years.

On Friday, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and the state's consumer counsel, Elin Swanson Katz, asked public utility regulators to review the impact that the outsourcing of IT jobs could have on the utility's ability to respond to major storms and outages.

The Hartford Courant first reported on NU's outsourcing plans after it had spoken to some IT employees, with a promise of anonymity. An IT employee reached by Computerworld, who has begun a job search, said the company is telling workers that the outsourcing contracts have not been finalized. All the employees are concerned, this worker said.

The IT job outlook for employees in the Hartford area is mixed. The IT job market is not as good as it was five or six years ago, and the state is not seeing a lot of new industry development, said Santacroce. "We're sort of in this holding pattern," she said.

But NU has a reputation for having "a pretty good .Net shop," said Santacroce, and its developers may be in a good position, as will those with big data and business intelligence experience. Desktop support technicians and telecom and network admins may have a tougher time, she said.

Santacroce said that in any job hunt, proactive people who move quickly will be in better shape, because a layoff of several hundred IT workers will "inundate the market fairly quickly."

Tom Mazzulla, a senior IT recruiter at iTech Solutions in Farmington, Conn., said NU developers should be able to find something, but he said it's a difficult market overall.

"The employers are driving the market right now, and it allows them to be much more particular about who they are going to hire," said Mazzulla. "It allows them to take more time to hire, and it allows them to pay less."

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